This Husband & Wife Duo Work to Give Weavers an Identity
We have often noticed the price tag of any garment, comprises of the brand’s name logo and all marketing information.
But have you ever seen a tag, which carries the name and picture of the weaver or farmer who had toiled and invested their sweat and blood, along with the mention of the number of days it took in bringing out the garment to the store’s shelves!
Well! Ethicus is that one brand, which thrives on the hard work of the weavers and farmers, channeled by the passion of this husband and wife duo, Mani Chinnaswamy & Vijayalakshmi Nachiar.
This farm to fashion initiative was formed in 2009 with the aim to revive the rich local hand weaving traditions of the area through Product Development & Design Intervention.
In conversation with Vijayalakshmi Nachiar, Co-founder & Creative Director, Ethicus, FranchiseIndia.com has unveiled India's first Eco-Logic and Sustainable Fashion Brand, Ethicus.
Nachiar says, “As we were growing our own cotton, we felt it would be good to value add the cotton to become more sustainable & to get a better value for the cotton. Therefore, we started working on our products in 2008 & launched Ethicus in 2009.”
She further adds, “When a customer buys a garment, they don’t realize it has gone through so many adept hands. So, we wanted to give the weavers an identity.”
Obstacles in the Market
When asked about the obstacles in this market today, Vijayalakshmi Nachiar says, a Cheap raw material in the form of synthetic fibers & cheap production with the use of power looms is a huge obstacle today. Knowledge & skill in using various other natural raw materials is dying as weavers are getting used to ease in pre & post process & weaving by using synthetic fibers.”
She further adds, “Locally available natural raw material is, therefore, being ignored & a geographical identity & history is lost forever. Therefore skilled & talented artisans are now a scarcity. Similarly, mass production through power looms has flooded the market with cheap fabrics. These are being sold in the market as handlooms fabric, cheating the consumers & in the process killing the real handloom. Consumers in the process believe power loom to be handloom & are finding actual handloom products very expensive. This is like a death knell for the handloom industry.”
Nachiar describes the challenges faced in the beginning. She says, while it was easy to dream of making fine & eco- friendly textiles which were beautifully designed & made, marketing, sales, production was a challenge. We were working with local weavers & artisans; we were working with a highly unorganized group of people. Getting them to understand timelines and quality norms was a huge challenge. And to top it all selling 'Cotton' as a high-end designer product was our biggest challenge.”
Breaking the General Mindset
'Cotton' had to be cheap is a general thought. Similarly, hand-woven products always had to be discounted was the general mindset. Handloom was always sold based on the area where they came from eg. Chanderi from Chanderi, Kanjeevaram from Kanchipuram, etc. Traditional sari stores were hesitant in selling products from a brand with the brands' tags, as they believed they were a brand in themselves. Therefore creating a ready market for our Sari's was a huge challenge. 'Organic' as a concept was understandable for food. But when it came to textiles, people were clueless as to its need & importance. These are some of the challenges that we have faced these past few years.
It’s not easy but it’s not impossible to work in this sector. Focus on quality, design & product innovation while making relevant products as per market demands helped us keep moving forward to reach our goals.
About Today and Tomorrow
Vijayalakshmi proudly describes the making of “Ethicus” as a brand.
She says, “our passion, the transparency in our value chain right from the growing the cotton to its weaving & our designs & quality made us reach where we are now.”
She adds, “we have established 42 handlooms, where we design and weave world's most exclusive fabrics, all under one roof. Our traditional artisans produce the most exquisite and fine hand-made textiles that are appreciated by a growing number of customers in India and abroad.”
She describes her future plans and concludes the conversation as, “we would like to build & concentrate on our e-commerce platform & venture into readymade garments.”