Responsible Feature : Anchal Project
One of my favorite accessory brands to follow along with in the “slow fashion” world has been Anchal Project. With their beautifully colored scarves, organic cotton bags, and home goods like pillows and blankets, Anchal Project is one to know for unique products that give back. The purchase of these items provides a direct impact through providing artisan team members in India with a full-time job, health care benefits, design training, and educational workshops. Evolving over the last few years, Anchal is on a mission to fight human trafficking and oppression women are facing as commercial sex workers. Their name “Anchal” means both “shelter” and the “decorative edge of a sari used to provide comfort & protection to loved ones.
I had the opportunity to try some of their items and share a bit more on their story through The Good Wear - and the photos that came from it and the scarves added to my wardrobe, just might be some of my favorite yet. Check out the interview below to hear more about the inspiring story of what Anchal Project works towards and what they’re up to next.
GET TO KNOW ANCHAL
It’s always a privilege to learn the stories behind the brands, but also get to know the people and hands behind the product we wear every day. Each item made from Anchal Project is tagged and signed by the artisan who made it. Each accessory, bag or home good is made with deep care and purpose - providing us an item we can wear or use proudly while providing rich and sustainable opportunity for those employed within the business.
How was Anchal Project started?
While attending grad school at the Rhode Island School of Design, Colleen took a Design for Development seminar class that took her on a trip to India. During this trip, she was exposed to extreme poverty and the underground world of commercial sex work in the red light district. She was emotionally struck by the stories of women forced into the sex trade to provide for their families. Colleen met with a leader of an NGO in this area and immediately noticed a void in programming for these women. She knew she couldn’t turn away, she had to fight for these women, her sisters, and help find a solution to the problem.
When Colleen returned to RISD, she joined forces with a few fellow classmates and hosted a fundraiser selling notebooks and note cards. After raising a humbling $400, they were able to establish 501c3 status and Anchal was officially born in 2010.
What does ethical fashion mean to you?
Ethical at the root relates to moral principals. The costs of our textiles consumption is environmentally and socially detrimental. Truly ethical fashion is focused on regenerating lasting textile systems that eliminate the exploitations to humans and the planet - focusing on working conditions, payment of employees, sustainable production processes and impact reporting.
As worldwide consciousness shifts attention to integrating more holistic and environmental actions into our daily lives, it is vital to recognize everyday systems that can become more sustainable. We believe there is a strong movement rising in socially and environmentally conscious products because the public is demanding a change.
Why do you partner with your artisans?
Commercial sex workers in India are stigmatized and marginalized from society. They are forced into the commercial sex trade due to poverty, lack of education, limited skills and extreme gender inequality. No matter how a woman enters the trade, the woman becomes trapped in a vicious cycle leaving a lasting imprint on her future and her children’s future. 85% of Anchal artisans joined the commercial sex trade due to a lack of alternatives.
Evidence proves that economically empowering women can transform the trajectory of entire families and lead to widespread economic growth. Anchal believes investing in a female commercial sex worker, especially one with children, is an opportunity that can transform an entire family and in turn, society.
What advice would you give someone working towards shopping responsible brands?
Be empathetic in your everyday consumption. We have power to design change with our purchasing power, plus it is becoming more readily available in sophisticated designs. As a consumer, you really have to dive deeper into the business practices and production process—ask for actual data and transparency in terms of working conditions, payment, production processes, and impact reporting. This can involve added research, but in the end it’s worth it to know where your clothes are coming from and how they impact humanity and the environment. We believe that every individual has the chance to make a difference and become an agent of change as a global citizen.
What’s one thing you’d like people to know about Anchal Project?
Anchal believes design can change lives. To date, Anchal has provided alternative careers in textiles and design to over 429 women in India and Kentucky. We are passionate about creatively changing lives with the power of design and spreading that message globally.The Anchal team’s passion for beautiful design goes beyond the end product. By employing design thinking, Anchal creates innovative and strategic solutions that tackle social inequality and refresh traditional business practices. Additionally, Anchal acknowledges design training as an invaluable life skill and entrepreneurial opportunity. We not only teach artisans how to sew, but also how to apply design thinking to problem solving and creativity. In order to create true sustainability, Anchal aspires to empower the artisans to make these conscious decisions themselves and use the skills to find new jobs.
What can we expect from you next? (This can be product, resources, interviews, speaking engagements, etc.)
As a social enterprise, we are planning to employ over 300 women in India and 10 in Louisville running self-sufficient by 2020 via product sales. Anchal aims to become a retailer that offers eco-friendly goods created around the world and designed to reflect the city of origin, thereby creating a diverse and unique product offering to customers. Immediately this means you can keep an eye out for continued diversity in product offerings and increased accessibility to our dyeScape collection that is naturally dyed in the United States.
SHOP THE PRODUCTS
Cotton Straight Scarf - Rust ($72.00) - This colorful scarf is handmade as a woven patchwork textile by an Anchal Artisan in Ajmer, India. The beautiful, 100% certified organic cotton material makes the scarf comfortable, functional and warm through the winter season into the Spring time. Paired with a winter coat or long sleeve tee, this scarf is the perfect compliment for your wardrobe.
Cotton Patchwork Bandana - Spruce ($28.00) - A smaller size of the straight scarf, as seen in the photos above, this bandana is made from the same 100% certified organic cotton material to create a functional, colorful item to wear both around your neck, head, and wrist. The color blocking for the styles makes it a simple statement to wear across seasons.
Small Toiletry Bag - Charcoal Cross Stitch ($32.00) - Not pictured in this post is the toiletry bag - a functional piece for travel or daily on-the-go use. The bag is structured from the 100% certified organic cotton and canvas material, stitched and completed with a brass zipper to keep everything needed within the bag. I’ve been able to use this style for air and car travel and it acts as the perfect compliment for toiletry, makeup for small items like pens, oils, phone etc. And an added bonus - each style has a hand-stitched name of the artisan maker in the interior.
Shop the brand with the discount code : GOODWEAR20