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      Hard Knock Impact Hit Caused by The Corona-virus Pandemic

      Hard Knock Impact Hit Caused by The Corona-virus Pandemic

      I am very sad to share the news that the little workshop I work with in India, Lucknow, AIF Pvt Ltd, will be closing down this month. Like so many tiny businesses, we have been knocked by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

      All the labels and designers who have worked with them are facing their own business difficulties. No matter how much they would wish things otherwise, most of them are in no position to make new orders and some have even been forced to cancel forward orders. Its a hard blow. But, by comparison we have been lucky, Every designer working with AIF ensured full payment for all the work done for them. That means the facility has been able to close in a more orderly manner, while the production team has had some time to look for work in other places.

      Our big concern is for the immediate employability of the talented and highly skilled tailors. They have families to support, so we can only hope that the skills they have built working with us will make them more competitive for the few jobs on offer. 

      The health crisis has hit India very badly, and India’s economy is suffering. The textiles industry has been seriously affected, as it has been everywhere. Jobs are scarce. I plan to keep in contact and do what I can to help them find a job. 

      Ironically, the women whose opportunities for employment and training were the purpose of our formation in 2007 are served a little better right now. The conservative culture in which they live means that their families rally round and support women in times like these. We are proud of the fact that some of our women workers, quite vulnerable in their particular family circumstances, have been empowered by the independence they have earned by working with us, and carry a higher level of respect even as they return to the relative safety of their family homes. In future, they have skills they will be able to bring to new jobs with the confidence they have gained from working with us.

      Australia should be proud that we have exceptionally amazing labels, all involved with the sustainable fashion movement, they even raised funds to support our workers during the 6 week long shutdown in March/April, when we were suddenly closed by the government and had no opportunity even to work from home. That fund-raising effort paid the salaries of the staff for the entire lockdown and enabled us to extend the amount of time we could employ our people by more than three months after the lockdown was over. To those who contributed to that campaign, THANKYOU. However, this situation can’t be strung out any longer. With the last orders nearing completion and not enough work foreshadowed for the coming months to pay rent or salaries, the production facility has had to admit defeat.

      I want to thank AIF, Penny Cantle and each designers and all the special people whom have valued us, the people who make it possible to create things that put the planet and people first , over profit. These people have been leaders in the sustainable and ethical textiles movement, committing their own funds and the futures of their businesses in their determination to prove that it is possible to make beautiful things without exploiting either the planet or its people. It is a wonderful thing to know that this approach to business continues to grow, even in these difficult times. Each of the partners working with AIF, including myself, has taken the time to find a new production unit that meets our ethical standards, so it is very good to know that these labels will continue into the future, supplying us with beautiful products that we can feel good about buying. Please do continue to support these brands, and mine, so we can continue to support fair and ethical employment of textile workers. They are listed below:

      Labels and businesses from which you can buy with confidence;

      Carlie Ballard

      Aware: the Social Design Project

      Coastal Street Party

      One Another Design

      Moonbird

      Buddhikas

      Alcana

      Pure Pod

      Free the Label

      Mamitas

      Above all I would like to personally thank the key person in all of this, who has worked with me from the beginning to create a safe, supportive and happy workplace as well as a viable business. As the onsite manager in Lucknow, Pragya Singh has implemented all our plans and dreams, and is now undertaking the heartbreaking task of pulling it all apart. Everyone who has worked with AIF, as employee, supplier and customer, owes her a huge debt of gratitude for the way she has done her multi-faceted job with both efficiency and heart.  

      There are more testing times ahead, especially for the poor. I dread them and feel powerless in the situation creating them, but I am confident that a larger number of people with the means to buy thoughtfully will do just that, now and into the future. More and more of us will ask the question, “Who made my clothes?” and shop only where we can receive an answer that gives us certainty that our purchase has done no harm.

      ****Words have been taken and revised to articulate my own sentiments with approval from Penny Cantle, my dear Fair Trade mentor, friend and founder of AIF****

      Photos such as these are now more treasured than ever... My heart pains to think of all the stress they are under during this time. I wish I was in a position to do more :(.

       

      Aware Girls.... The Best Customers In The World!

      Aware Girls.... The Best Customers In The World!-Aware... the social design project

      Here are a few customers who LOVED what they have purchased from 'Aware...the social design project'. I am so grateful to have such amazing customers. Pro-sumers and advocates for Fair Trade. Makes me feel encouraged and hopeful that I will make it through this very strange time.

      Keep safe.

      Love,

      Yvie xo 

       

      The Block Maker - The Forgotten Artisan. But Not Here!

      The Block Maker - The Forgotten Artisan. But Not Here!-Aware... the social design project

      For centuries beautiful textile designs have been made by hand. The most recognisable method is the art of block printing, a process that is both labour intensive and time consuming.


      The process involves firstly using a hammer and a chisel to expertly carve the chosen design into a block of wood - carving a block can take anywhere from an hour for a small piece, to several weeks or even months depending on the size and detail of the image. Unfortunately, many block print makers are caught up in the hidden economy and are exploited (not paid fairly) for their amazing skill. That’s why we sell block prints in-store, these artisans deserve to be appreciated for their skill as the blocks are themselves works of art!

       

      Here is an example of some of the blocks sold in-store and online:

      The next process to create a print onto fabric involves the block being dipped into a dye tray, and expertly stamped onto the fabric with a hard pound of the fist, ensuring even printing. This will be repeated from left to right, aligning the blocks perfectly by eye. To master this skill takes years of experience.

      This is an example of how beautiful the end result is:

       

      As mentioned earlier, makers of blocks are prone to being undervalued. Why does this happen? Because, their work is done in the shadowy areas of fashion,  where the supply chain is unregulated, leading to lack of transparency and industry protection. 

      Thanks to the Fashion revolution movement, consumers are asking "where did our clothes come from?". But, we need to go further. By asking clothing manufacturers of artisan block printed clothing, "who made the blocks". My hope is that we don't stop there....lets ask "who made the buttons", "who made the zip", "who made the cotton". Fair Trade should be an entitlement for everyone. Not just the sewing production unit. Please ask the questions, so that light is thrown into the shadowy areas of the fashion industry.  

      Love,

      Yvie xo

       

      Photo on header sourced from:  

      http://architecturetraveljournal.blogspot.com/2012/11/anokhi-in-india.html

       

       

      Hand loom (Khadi) Fabrics - The Romantic Textile

      Hand loom (Khadi) Fabrics - The Romantic Textile-Aware... the social design project

      As a designer, to me the life and soul of a design is the fabric. With my in house label 'Awear... social re-design', I never compromise on fabric. Its is, after all what tells the story of what the garment is about, its that Je ne sais quoi. In my opinion,the cut and style of a design is just the means by which to give life to an artisan textile. 

      It’s pure romance knowing its made by hands of a skill that has been passed down for generations. Can you imagine how magical the first woven garments would have been. For me, the magic is still there, especially with Ikat.

      There is something soulful about artisan textiles. With hand loomed fabric in particular, I feel connected to the maker of fabric, as his or her hands have worked for hours to make what I wear.

      The hand-loom process means that no two lengths are ever the same, crafting this fabric takes time, patience and a unique set of skills, beautiful quality fabrics are made by masters of their trade, It is wearable art!

      When we choose to purchase hand-loomed fabrics we not only provide work and a sustainable income for skilled craftspeople, but also ensure that these age-old practices are kept alive. 

      The significance of preserving this artisan still is best explained by Nomads, a UK Fair Trade label; 
      “Hand loom is a skilled process that is steeped in cultural history, it is an essential part of both the Indian economy and rich heritage. However, this ancient technique is in danger of being surpassed in favour of mechanical techniques and cheap labour.” 

      The slow fashion movement, my little label and other passionate textile driven designers will not let this art die, we will champion together to raise awareness of the importance and beauty of the hand-loom textile. And of course, most importantly, the survival of this art will be via advocacy, spreed by customers wearing it.

      Here are a few of the hand-loom pieces produced by 'Awear...social re-design' using hand looms created by Moral Fibre....

       

      Love,

      Yvie xo

      Founder of 'Aware...the social design project'

      Dreamer and doer.

       Note: Header photo from Moral Fibre Web Site: https://moralfibre-fabrics.com

       

      Considered Fashion - Looking at Cotton.

      Considered Fashion - Looking at Cotton.-Aware... the social design project

      Our consumption decisions have the power to redesign the world for the better, I believe this with my whole heart! The whole purpose of 'Aware...the social design project' is to make people "aware" of things, so that better, more socially empowering and ecologically friendly purchase decisions can be made. Here area few words explaining why choosing organic cotton matters.

      Cotton is breathable, it will last far more wears in between washing than synthetic fibres. Reducing water usage and your energy bill. The natural fibres of organic cotton are hypo-allergenic, making it the perfect choice for even the most sensitive skin. Basically, organic cotton is the best form of cotton, both for the planet, the growers and the people who wear the clothing.

      Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment, with systems in place to replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic pesticides and fertilisers, and build biologically diverse agriculture. And organic cotton is naturally biodegradable. 

      Non-organic cotton because it uses harmful synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides, does bad things, it:

      • Contaminates the soil, making it more difficult to grow future crops in a natural manner.
      • Not only do many of these chemicals remain within the fibres as they find their home with the end consumer. 
      • Destroys eco-systems and,
      • Poisons farmers and factory workers. According to the World Health Organisation, over 20,000 deaths are reported from pesticide poisoning and over 10,000 farmers die from cancers related to them.

      Here are a few of my personal favourite organic cotton options that can be found online:  

      Global Mamas, The Swing Dress: This dress/tunic has two smock pockets and sleeves that can be turned up for a chic look. Looks great with tights or jeans under. All Global Mamas garments are made from GOTs certified cotton.

      The most recognised certification body of organic cotton is GOTS. A GOTS certified product has been checked, so they can endorse that the product meets world standard best practice in organic cotton production. 

      This brand is also World Fair Trade Guaranteed product.  

      Hand Woven tailored pants: "The most comfortable tailored high waist pant I have ever worn" (said by every customer whom has purchased this pant). Its probably why its a best seller! Any one who wears dress pants to work, you NEED these pants in your wardrobe!. The producer of this pant use only GOT certified cotton and are endorsed by Fair Trade Australia.  

      Sargent Pepper Jacket: A great festival style looking jacket. This jacket updates any outfit into a fun look. This brand is focused on eco dyes and small scale cottage production. 

      After reading this you are now a more considered customer, armed with options to make a you a better social design consumer. 

      Love,

      Yvie xo 

      Founder of 'Aware..the social design project'

       #FashRev #slowfashion #GOTS #Organiccotton #awaregirl

      ***Header image is sourced from: https://www.fairtrade.org.uk/Media-Centre/Blog/2014/April/From-cotton-fields-to-cutting-floors . The link provides information about the importance of choosing Fair Trade Cotton.  ***

      Tsandza Bamboo Scarves

      Tsandza Bamboo Scarves-Aware... the social design project

      Tsandza Handweaving began in 1979 as a social enterprise providing skills development and an income source to many rural women. They place great focus on personal growth and wellbeing. Through their work, the artisans gain greater self esteem and independence, and a stronger voice within their families and communities.

      Currently working with around 60 women both workshop and home based, Tsandza offers a unique opportunity for rural women that allows them to earn whilst they learn. A 6 month training programme is run in-house and on the job by senior & master Artisans who have worked with the business for as many as 30 years. The aim upon completion of their “trainee” programme, is that each new Artisan will have the knowledge, and be proficient across all aspects of production methods and materials ensuring that they are able to continue well after there training has finished. It is very important to the business that those Artisans wishing to develop their skills further have the opportunity to do so.

      The entire production process is “by hand” with the use of traditional floor looms and spinning wheels. The use of biodegradable dyes , also enables the group to minimise their environmental impact.

      Every single scarf is a result of commitment, teamwork and passion, providing customers with an ethically produced , beautiful quality , fashion accessory.