Today we are going to talk about Ashwini Kurup, who is the founder of The Handmade Store. The Handmade Store is a Sustainable clothing brand started by a 21-year-old designer with the vision to support our artisans and heritage crafts and make sustainable fashion affordable. So, without further ado, let’s straight jump into the interview.
Interview of Ashwini Kurup from The Handmade Store
Please Introduce yourself and tell us something about The HandMade Store.
Hi, I’m Ashwini Kurup a 22-year-old, 2019 Graduate Textile designer from NIFT. I am the founder of “The Handmade Store” believing and delivering organic weaves in sustainable brand identity.
My products are handcrafted with love by my team right from threads to the clothes. We are dedicated to sustaining and promoting Khadi, handlooms and slow fashion. Looking at the hold of the traditional Indian crafts in the market, the brand intends to work with fabrics from different handlooms to help to sustain crafts with a contemporary approach.
Our USP being authentic, handmade quality weaves creating social impact in sustaining our age-old heritage of khadi weaves and promoting Khadi as a slow fashion by working at the grass-root levels with the artisans, providing them with better opportunities in the existing sector they are missing out.
With the growing awareness of eco-friendly clothing and sustainable fashion, it is a conscious step taken at my end to help the crafts and artisans sustain to use eco- friendly materials and practice ethical manufacturing, thereby being good for the environment as well our soul.
How and when did you think to start such brand?
During my NIFT Textile designing graduation years, as part of our curriculum, we had to visit a lot of handloom clusters and work with them on various projects. At the time, I was unaware the handloom experience would give me the exposure, to become an important aspect of my life. I am passionate about working at the clusters on grassroots levels, understanding the dedication and enthusiasm the artisans have is something that is normally not witnessed in our normal 9-5 routine professional career life.
During the visits to the clusters, I observed most of the artisans were senior citizens yet working for 9 hrs a day as they were passionate about the craft and also never wanted it to languish. The visits to the clusters during my graduation years made me reconfirm my decision of pursuing a career in the handloom sector. Once again my graduation project with Raymond’s gave me an opportunity to work on collections with handloom Khadi weavers in the outskirts for 4 months on and off the field, making me adamant in my belief that I wanted to do something independently by myself to bring a positive change in their lives and also to continue our age-old heritage. Even if, this decision of mine results in a small positive change,I would be well satisfied.
On spending most of my time with the artisans, I realized that they would prefer their kids to take up a profession different from theirs, as they are of the opinion, weavers are not being fairly treated with respect nor paid fairly. This had made me decide to move forward in my career paving a way leading to positive impact on the lives of people involved with me, be it the weavers, kharighars etc.. and achieve a brand identity I could be proud of. Further am proud to mention, post my final graduation exams within a period of two months my creation “The Handmade Store” came to be in existence.
What’s the motive behind The Handmade Store?
I want our heritage crafts to be preserved for future generations and not to languish. In addition, THS would be definitely involved in the artisans for them to be respected and not looked down upon also assisting them in being self-independent financially. I want the artisans to encourage their future generations to follow their footsteps and join the sector keeping our heritage alive.
It’s true that the Indian society looks down upon working in the handloom sectors, even I had a tough time convincing my family who were initially concerned about my future and this is the perspective that I need to change. As always we value the craft but not the artist, due to which currently the craft is dwindling.
Also, fast fashion has affected the environment so much that we are suffering, so by supporting artisans, we are supporting a sustainable approach towards fashion as less water and electricity is consumed in the Khadi sector. Our fabrics are naturally dyed with Ayurvedic medicinal plants which are good for our body and even after the garments are discarded it won’t adversely affect the environment since no chemicals used in processing the fabric / garment.
Investing in sustainable fashion is a bit more expensive than their fast fashion counterparts, but we are always trying our best to make sustainable fashion affordable for all. So if we take a look at the big picture, sustainability and the handloom sector is interconnected. Promoting Khadi & the handloom sector also helps in supporting Sustainable fashion in the long run.
All products are Handcrafted, it’s really appreciable. tell us something more about it.
All our products are handcrafted, from the yarn woven to make the fabric as well the embroidery work done on the garment.
Everything we make is handcrafted with the utmost care. We work with the Khadi fabric, which is handwoven on a charkha and then the fabric is weaved on a handloom. We have also worked with tribal artisans whom we found to be some of the most skilled gifted embroiders with talent not to be found anywhere else in the world. With handcrafted products it’s all about uniqueness, even two products of the same design will never be exactly the same. There is a human imprint on each fibre, the difference in the thickness of the threads; the consistent irregularity of handcrafting is embraced. Our intent to promote this aspect of Handcrafting in each creation is unique.
You’re promoting Khadi and Handcrafted accessories which is really great! It is supporting Vocal For Local as well. So, how do you manage this thing?
We believe as our PM says, “If people there started supporting local brands, they will become global.” But the thing with local brands is we need support from the people, and they need to understand our approach. The path we follow can at times be difficult, which can be made easier with just a little bit of support. Just by referring the brand or sharing their posts on social media, Asking a friend to like, share and follow them, giving a shout outs mean a lot to small growing businesses.
How big the team THS is?
Currently, we are a small team working towards making sustainable fashion affordable for all and supporting the artisans. We are connected we a group of 8 weavers, our masterji and 2 hand embroidery artisans and our supporters.
In the next 5 years, where do you see this brand?
In the next five years, I plan to open my own store in Mumbai and have a proper infrastructure for my artisans to work, where we can provide them with the basic facilities we get when we work in an MNC.
Also we are currently working with a group of weavers but would connect with various artisans making various crafts across India. Taking forward to sustainable fashion and the Khadi & handloom sector, sustainable fashion would be affordable for all and the artisans would have a better livelihood.
If you want to share the procedure of handcrafting! We are excited!
Being a Textile designer, I like to experiment with dyes and fabrics. First I visit the cluster and get the fabric samples made according to my designs. After various experiments, an order is placed for the best samples. Till we receive the order, the garments are designed and then the embroidery on the fabrics begin. The garments are finally made and then the photoshoot takes place. It takes us around 3-4 months to come up with one collection.
What message would you like to give to the younger generation?
I understand fast fashion has become an important part of our lives, but we neglect how badly it is affecting our planet and our lives. Repeating outfits, Buying something because you need it and not because they were on sale. If we make small changes in our buying habits today we will have a better future. I believe the life our grandparents and parents lived where there was no such thing as wasting something and recycling was an important part of their life. If we start practising that again, we can deal with major issues like climate change. Every effort, big or small makes a huge difference. Also as Indians and we are known for our rich culture, crafts are an important part of that culture and if we don’t support them now, they will disappear and we will lose a significant part of our culture.
Imagine hearing about how comfortable and beautiful pure silk handloom sarees were from your mothers, and never being able to wear them or experience how it feels. Sad, right? So lets support small and local businesses in any way we can, it does not only support the business but helps bring positive change to the lives of so many people.
That’s all about The Handmade Store. You can follow their official Instagram Handle @thehandmadestore.in
Click here to place an order.