This is slow fashion: Anita Dongre


This is slow fashion: Anita Dongre

Anita Dongre argues that Grassroot’s goals are different from those of mainstream fashion. Edited excerpts from an email interview:

Can Grassroot become a commercially viable label?

Grassroot was conceived to provide a platform for artisans so there is a bridge between craft and the urban consumer. Our role is to contemporize craft and create designs which appeal to the cosmopolitan consumer. The role of fashion is to lead and not follow the consumer, and I believe Grassroot will create a market for itself.

We have already seen an excitement in consumers and are confident that the enlightened, evolved and global woman of today feels the need not just to own a garment but sees it as wearing the country’s craft and helping the cause of the talented artisans in India.

Isn’t bringing craftswomen to the ramp a populist branding effort?

Grassroot was launched seven years ago as a line under my brand, but it is only now that I have the bandwidth to invest in it holistically and give it the wider platform it deserves. While we work behind the scenes with organizations like the Sewa Trade Facilitation Centre of Gujarat and NGOs like Umeed Foundation in Punjab, weavers’ cooperatives in Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, Sewa Lucknow and Kashmir Box, to name a few, it is only right and honest that our craftsmen and women who are the craft custodians share the stage with us.

Effectively, how many artisans are your responsibility?

We want to create livelihoods, and, therefore, just one rare engagement is not our brand model. We have a firm commitment to give continuous work to the Sewa Trade Facilitation Centre. The embroidery takes place at Bakutra, Barara, Vauva and Fangli in the Santalpur block of Patan district in north Gujarat. We are committed to giving work to 100 women spread across these four villages and will increase this number every quarter.

Sewa’s main goal is to organize women workers for full employment, i.e. employment where employees obtain work security, income security, food security and social security (health care, childcare and shelter). Sewa decides the fair wages to be paid depending on the number of hours they take for each piece and the complexity of each stitch.

Beyond Sewa, we provide employment opportunities to 100 gota patti workers in Nyla village near Jaipur, 10 handloom weavers in Varanasi and several artisans we have just begun our association with.

Is this slow fashion?

Yes, it is completely dependent on what the artisans can produce, and we are not in a position to plan huge numbers or turn it around as per what the consumer wants. Sustaining the craft is of paramount importance.