Garments made from natural fabrics such as cotton and linen have always appealed to me during the summer heat. The brand in India that stands out for its traditional crafts, furnishings and cool hand woven garments made from lightweight, hand printed fabrics is Fabindia, the stores from where I pick up some of my summer wear each year.
The ethnic Indian retail chain was started in 1960, by John Bissel, an American, working in India, as a one-man export company of home furnishings to market the diverse crafts of India.
What makes Fabindia so different?
Sustainability is chanted as the business mantra for today, but back in the 1960s, profitability and social mission were looked upon as conflicting by most Indian businesses. Much like Amul, going against the tide, Fabindia worked on forming sustainable business relationships by creating sustainable livelihoods in the rural sector in India. They empowered the suppliers, and enabled their growth, along with the growth of the company.
The first Fabindia retail store was opened in Greater Kailash, New Delhi in 1976 and it is still one of their flagship stores.
In 1988, after the death of John Bissel, his son William took over the management. Shifting Fabindia’s focus from overseas to the domestic market, he expanded it to form a retail chain, from the two shops in Delhi.
In the process he merged the supplier companies called community owned company (CoC), with Fabindia, and thus making each CoC shareholder, including artisans, owners of Fabindia’s equity.
Indigenous techniques + Contemporary designs
Blending indigenous craft techniques with contemporary designs, Fabindia brings to us aesthetic and affordable products. The designs are adapted to urban taste, which explains the popularity of this retail chain in the cities over the government-owned emporiums.
Working with the village artisans the designers provide the designs and colours and teach them the basics of basics of quality, consistency and finish.
The ready-to-wear garments like tunics and kurtis are trendy and in line with the taste of elite urban populace. Handcrafted jewellery is available as accessories to go with the garments.
Besides home furnishings, Fabindia also has furniture, lighting, tableware, cane baskets and some handcrafted utility items.
Cereals, grains, pulses, spices, sugar, tea, coffee, honey, fruit preserves and herbs are sold as part of Fabindia Organics. Fabindia’s range of Personal care products includes soaps, shampoos, hair oils, pure oils, moisturizers, body scrubs, face packs, etc.
FabIndia products are now available online and gift vouchers are available on Amazon.
Turning artisans into Company owners, Fabindia links over 55,000 craft based rural producers to modern urban markets, preserving India’s traditional handicrafts in the process.
Ending this post with a quote from the founder of Fabindia.
‘In addition to making profits, our aims are constant development of new products, a fair, equitable and helpful relationship with our producers, and the maintenance of quality on which our reputation rests.
’ ~ John Bissell.
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