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;
Aware: the Social Design Project
Coastal Street Party
One Another Design
Free the Label
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 :(.