Women & Design // WID Insights
Sirohi, a sustainable luxury brand that advocates a slow and simple lifestyle based on values of Indian heritage and culture. Our home & lifestyle products are handwoven by skilled women artisans with an aim to bring the beauty of the outdoors, indoors.
This month has been a sustainable-craft-month for us at Women in Design, India. We had the opportunity to chat with multiple organizations working hard on fighting globalized fast fashion and reviving the intricate crafts of India all at once! One of these courageous organizations was Sirohi — a sustainable luxury brand that advocates a slow and simple lifestyle based on values of Indian heritage and culture. Sirohi's home and lifestyle products are handwoven by skilled women artisans with an aim to bring the beauty of the outdoors, indoors. Head on over to sirohi.org to truly witness the beauty the artisans create in collaboration with Sirohi.
Earlier this month, we hopped on a call with Gauri Malik, founder of Sirohi, what followed was a series of fortunate events starting with our very first giveaway (how exciting)! Sirohi's story was one to inspire many, including us. Over the years, Sirohi has given many women from marginalized communities an empowering voice, allowing them to recognize their existing crafts by providing them ‘tech-based’ design support to make well-designed products. These products then move on to live in the homes of the modern Indian. We got in touch with Shahiba, an artisan working with Sirohi, to understand more of what goes on into creating authentic artisanal products in the 21st century.
Our story started with just one woman in 2019- Gauhar Fatma. Today, we stand strong with over 250 women artisans who have worked with us from over 3 villages in the Muzaffarnagar district. Read more about one of our Artisan Cluster Heads, Gauhar Fatma, who was also the first woman who agreed to work with us even when the others said no.
The artisan's point of view
Shahiba is one of the artisans working with Sirohi on creating their carefully curated hand-woven products incorporating the perfect blend of functional modern minimalism with the intricate delicacies of traditional craft weavings. We were curious to know how Shahiba started out in the creative field. Shahiba tells us how she's learned all she knows of weaving and creating value from raw cloth from her mother. "She taught us weaving, and a lot of the people in my community have worked as weavers." A skill that has been passed down through generations. "My mother taught me weaving, and I did improve many of my weaving skills while working with Sirohi. Because different designs call for different weaving patterns and styles, this also helped me grow and become more versatile."
That got us curious into how Shahiba found out about Sirohi, and what motivated her to start her journey with them "I actually met Gauri Ma'am's mother, and she introduced me to Sirohi! I was interested in it and I thought I'd give it a go." With her own mother's knowledge and experience passed onto Shahiba, she took a decision to go work with Sirohi; a decision that ended up impacting her life for the good in many ways. "I'm more independent now, and I'm able to make a decent living by creating these products." This new-found independence has in a way enabled her individuality and towards her contributions to the world. A young woman with big dreams working on battling her very own hurdles, unafraid of breaking social barriers to build a better world for herself and the future generations to come; this is what it means to be a Sirohian woman.
What motivated Shahiba even more, was the community culture these women had created for themselves "I made a lot of friends and we constantly learn from each other." She says, "It's very nice to be a part of such a community of artisans" for women who work in the creative field, they're role models in building (and keeping) morale high and empowering each other. The women at Sirohi balance both work responsibilities as well as family responsibilities. "We usually work at night" Shahiba tells us, "We finish off the household work and responsibilities by the morning and then work till night on Sirohi's products." Using their tech-based design process, they've managed to create a great design process that works for them "The designer usually sends the files, it's all digital done through the phone. They detail out what all needs to be done, and then we go on and make it." When asked, how it feels to see your creations being used by people nation-wide, a smile made its way onto Shahiba's face "I feel really good about it! It motivated me to work harder when I hear about all of the good things people say about the brand." a genuinely down-to-earth and modest woman, Shahiba works hard on bringing the Sirohian designers visions to life, and does an absolutely wonderful job at it.
Get to know Sirohi, the brand
"It was Buddha who said, “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”
History demonstrates effectively that individuals who took their own path, who listened to their inner callings despite the current norms of society, were empowered with the ability to affect real change around them. These were the people who did not take no for an answer, who were compelled to find new answers to old questions. We might not all be able to go down in history and become prolific game changers, but we can all certainly learn the value of listening to our own, inner voices.
In 2008, I was finishing my Masters in Finance and Economics from the University of Warwick and had three months to complete my dissertation. A strong need to deviate from the norm got me thinking about travelling to a country I had never been to and exploring my education in a completely new context. My research on the Success of Microcredit Provision led me to an internship with a small NGO in Trujillo, Peru. Coming from India, I had plenty of reasons to find an equally compelling town or village back home. It would have been cheaper, my family’s collective blood pressure wouldn’t have gone up in worry, and I would have had more than adequate research material for my dissertation. The decision was burdened by the apprehensions of my parents and relatives, by financial constraints, and a general lack of confidence in my ability to pull it off. After a few sessions with my academic counsellor, I made a fundraising page online, and raised enough money to buy my ticket to Peru. Moving out of my own comfort zone and finding similarities in unfamiliar territories, was a truly inspiring experience.
After this unique experience, I knew I wanted to keep the rush of what I had done alive and affect true change in India as well. The typical sequential lifestyle we lead pressured me into a job with a Bank. Increasingly numbed by the monotony of an Investment Banking job, I quit to finally move to what really tickled my fancy. Questions were raised before I decided to distance myself from the Corporate World and move to a more disciplinary field; the answers were not simple, but possibly a representation of the type of person I like to think I am. The birth of Skilled Samaritan was my personal “Aha” moment and from conception to launch, my passion for its intent has never wavered.
Skilled Samaritan’s initial projects focused on lighting villages using solar power, where we lit almost 3 villages and 10 schools in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. One of these villages was Sirohi - the namesake of our brand for sustainable living. During my time in these villages, I noticed that the charpoy they were sitting on was made from candy and chocolate wrappers and soon realized there was an opportunity there. Our focus in 2018 moved to work with women from the same communities to use existing skill-sets to provide employment using their existing skill-sets of charpoy weaving.
Sirohi officially came into existence in the latter part of 2020 when we wanted to separate the retail & commerce aspect of this foundation from its initiatives. Now, Sirohi is the brand that promotes luxe-sustainable living through its products while SSF works towards the empowerment of artisan clusters in India through a tech-driven approach & collaboration with designers."
Sirohi's sustainability pact
"Our products’ sustainability is derived from the materials used to make it- we either use natural & sustainable materials like jute & cotton or up-cycle waste materials from industrial trimmings like multi-layer packaging plastic waste & textile waste. Trimmings from these materials are then woven into ropes for making the end product. We usually source such materials from local industries & sellers.
The biggest USP for the sustainability of our products is that we are completely transparent about exactly how our products are sustainable. We provide three metrics to our customers for each & every product - how long it took to weave a product (showing the exclusivity of each product that is made to order), #wastetowow (amount of waste material that was converted into a wow product) & CO2 savings (amount of carbon emissions that were saved by up-cycling the waste material used to make this product)."
Head on over to sirohi.org to shop their hand-crafted products to add the little bit of home to your surroundings.
We're always open to other perspectives, opinions, and a good chat over some coffee or tea. We'd love to host a conversation with you, head on over to our Discord and get in touch!
With 🧡 Team WID.