Handmade, recycled and ‘Chindin’

As the most beautiful things, Chindi started as a fun project of love Tanushri Shuklaare to weave. With a friend who liked to make crochet, the duo started doing small things and gave them to their friends. All the raw materials were waste generated by the wholesale clothing business of Tanushriare. There are tons of garbage that tailors call chindi that are generated every day, and currently most of this material is thrown away. Tanushri’s response to her small gifts was overwhelming and she became organically an organization. Chindi started working with women from the poor neighborhood of Mankhud in Mumbai about a year and a half ago and became a design company that manufactures and assembles products. Tanushri also believes that the best scenario for an organization like Chindi would be that it becomes redundant and that all organizations recover their own waste, but we are far from that. In this conversation with SlowTech, Tanushri talks about his experience working with a small group of women, his ideology of scale and his thoughts on mass production. Tanushri Shukla (R) in Mankhud ST: Tell us about the first days of your contact with the women of Mankhud and how things started. TS: One of the women who worked in the sewing unit of the factory was employed to do the manual work. She lived in a poor neighborhood of Mankhurd. One day, she saw me knitting and weaving with crochet and she told me that she knew how to crochet and that many of her neighbors did too. She took me to her community where we organized a reception with her neighbors and everyone showed us the fabulous things they had knitted and woven: sweaters, hats, carpets. These women were all migrants from the displaced north of India who had grown up weaving and weaving, and now in the city they found no use for these skills, so everything was going to be wasted. Bad enough, many of them would turn their old clothes into blankets or rugs for their houses. They already lived the Chindi lifestyle! We ask some of them to use their skills with our waste fabric and that is how we work with our artisan community. ST: How many women do you work with? How is the operational relationship? Do they work at home, come to a community space? TS: All of our artisan women live in the slums of Mankhurd; now we have a central team of four women and we employ more women according to the personalized requirements. We have a central space in the neighborhood, since most of them are not allowed to leave the house to work. In fact, the reason they work with Chindi is because they can work from home, flexibly, in their own time. The center is a meeting place, it shares ideas, it collaborates in new products and designs. And then they take the piece and finish it at home. Chindi team ST: How did you understand the designs and the training? What did you start doing first? TS: our design and product strategy has remained the same from the beginning, looking at the skills, models and products that women already manufacture, and using them as an inspiration source. For example, our first product, which continues to be our sales success, is our carpets, something we started doing just because that’s what women did at home with their old clothes. We are adding only a little design intervention. All our products are inspired by them and their lifestyles, which are intrinsically less wasteful. ST: How long? Do you see? Can women generate reasonable sustenance? Do they do it full time? Your thoughts TS: We have been working with our women for almost a year and a half now. They are like my family We go through the whole process of setting up, sampling, seeing what works, being disappointed, being exalted and building our success together. It was an incredible experience. All the women we work with have never had a paid job before, but now many of them have been inspired to enroll in sewing classes and work from home. This was the greatest satisfactionintegrate more women into our core team and increase our impact. ST: It is impossible to compete with mechanized mass production. Where do you think the future is? What is your philosophy? TS: The future is handmade and recycled! I always say that Chindi’s greatest success will be our own redundancy: in the future, design houses, brands and fashion houses will recycle and reuse their own waste and you will not even need have an organization like ours! We can already see that the industry is moving towards that, and it’s really great to see. That said, there will always be room for handmade products compared to products produced in series. I do not believe that the two compete with each other, they simply can not, in the price, the manufacturing time, the supply chain, etc. Each piece takes days or weeks, we pay each member of our supply chain fairly, our raw material is an unpredictable resource and our design process is the other way around, so we have to design according to the material we have , do not reverse. So, of course, our time and efforts involved are much more than the brands that make a replicable product. But, on the other hand, our overall costs are low because each piece needs a single hook or a pair of knitting needles. There is a simplicity and an authenticity in all this. And I think that customers are really starting to understand and appreciate that. We are not trying to compete with massive brands in prices, but we want to compete in quality and design. A client will end up spending money for something because they like it. It will not be and should not be a compassionate purchase, where you buy a bag to support a community and never use it because you never liked it. This goes against the goal and simply becomes another waste. Therefore, we care a lot about our design and the quality of the brand so that our products stand up. Here is a challenge of inherent scale: can we produce thousands of pieces every day? Yes, we could, but is it our goal? No, not really. I like to think of scale as depth instead of width: we create some carefully designed pieces that we know our audience will like and use. Our women are paid fairly and they also find creative satisfaction in this work, so there is a profound impact. That is what we are looking for. ST: What is Chindi currently working on? What are the future plans? TS: We have evolved into a small design house that manufactures limited ranges of unique and carefully designed pieces. After a year of experimentation, we are in the process of completing our product line and brand based on everything we have learned. We have begun to consider our slow approach as our strength and we really take our time with each piece we make, collaborating with the artisans who make the design and technique. We have also started working with some tailors from our community to expand our product line and use the waste generated by their businesses to supplement their income and support this community. Visit us and write to slowtech Through Contact us if you wish to participate.

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