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SWARA - A Fashion Brand that’s Making a Difference
Published in  
Bizz
 on  
December 2, 2021

SWARA - A Fashion Brand that’s Making a Difference

True to its name, SWARA by Asha Scaria stands for amplifying the voice (swar) of women.

So you’re having a home-cooked meal in the house of a kind woman in Dungarpur, a small tribal village in Rajasthan. This is no ordinary woman, she’s been an archery champion during her childhood. Today, her life revolves around the narrow doorsteps of her domestic duties, while her husband is in the city in the search for better employment opportunities. Her talent, her skill, her ambition and need for work are all but lost in the pauses of the conversation. She’s not alone. 75% of women in rural India are unemployed, a major reason that perhaps explains India’s disappearing female workforce. India ranks 120 out of 131 countries in female labour force participation rate, according to the 2017 India Development Report published by the World Bank Group. Ladies, this is the story of a brand that is working towards changing this. Introducing SWARA, a sustainable fashion organisation that was started by Asha Scaria in 2017 after her conversation with the archery champion who served her a lovely home-cooked meal.

Asha found herself in Dungarpur whilst pursuing her Gandhian Fellowship. She realised there was a need to create a mechanism through which women in rural India could earn income without having to leave their villages, a binding constraint. In Dungarpur she realised that almost all households had a tailoring machine and women had the necessary skill set due to various corporate training programs. What was missing was the demand for their culturally rich skills. That’s where Swara fits in.

True to its name, SWARA stands for amplifying the voice (swar) of these women. As a brand that creates indo-western clothing, SWARA is uniquely positioned at the intersection of three very important issues—curating demand for designs created by women in rural India, doing this in an environmentally conscious and sustainable way, and securing creative intellectual property rights for artisans.

Unlike most clothing businesses, SWARA employs women tailors with a remuneration above market price and provides them with creative autonomy. The aim is to employ women in all creative roles, from manufacturing, dyeing, stitching, modeling, packaging, etc. The brand engages in integrating traditional textile knowledge in its supply chain by partnering with artisans from different creative communities across the country. They co-create designs with these artisans and source all their fabric from the Dabu printing (organic process of dying) artisans of Akola—the guardians of a dying craft.

Swara

As an environment crusader, SWARA  uses sustainable manufacturing practices, such as hand-printing of fabric and non-plastic packaging, among others. As if this wasn’t perfect enough, Swara also recognises the need for cultural sustainability. It is a member of “The Cultural Intellectual Property (IP) Rights Initiative”— the first global network that recognizes that artisans are custodians and transmitters of traditional knowledge, traditional designs, and traditional manufacturing techniques. It is also the first brand working with Monica Bota Moisin, and her team from Sweden. Their partnership works on using this initiative to form a community of brands that give Cultural Intellectual Property Rights to the artisans.

In less than a year since its operations began, SWARA has already sold more than 1500 products. But the sales are not quite what determine the impact that this brand has had.

“How do I quantify the value of Swara when my tailor comes to me and says that her daughter is capable enough to apply to medical school or when a didi who was married at 14 receives her first paycheck?’’, asks Asha, rhetorically.

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SWARA’s journey has only just begun. They recently launched their first collection, “Sa” (note this as the first of the seven musical notes—Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ne), which represents their Dungarpur chapter. The theme of this collection is Indigo and Dabu print, and it includes clothing for women, men and children, with designs ranging from crop tops and shirts to reversible jackets and ponchos. The vision for the future is to launch collections representing the six other musical notes in different chapters of rural India.

“The idea is to have 7 swars so that SWARA can represent and display the craft present in different parts of India’’ adds Asha.

She also has genius and exciting plans for exchange programs between artisans from different cultural heritages, to enable cross learnings and co-curation of designs.

Ladies, we concur that SWARA is a brand whose work is at the cutting edge of what our country needs. A platform for the huge talent house in our women—a platform that is authentic, environmentally conscious and culturally sustainable. It is a brand that is a refreshing change in a world of fast fashion, wasteful practices, and exploitation of workers. We can’t imagine how it can get any better. If you’re a conscious buyer who cares about the story of the worker who made your clothes, or the process of how your clothes were created or the traditions behind it—we couldn’t recommend Swara more. What’s more, their collection is absolutely stunning! Time to get shopping, ladies?

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