By Hand From The Heart is a curated makers market event in Chennai, South India. UPCOMING EVENT: 24th – 25th, AUGUST, CROWNE PLAZA, CHENNAI
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am Bharathi Devarajan (CEO – Five P Venture / Nool By Hand) hailing from Erode, the turmeric town of India. I did my schooling in Erode, Bachelors of Commerce in Coimbatore and MIB at Singapore. I come from a family, which is involved in the construction industry. Though the core business is Construction, our family is involved in a number of social projects and educational initiatives. So as an individual I always wanted to pursue my career in a social business, which involves lot of creativity and humanness and was never inclined towards the commercial mainstream businesses. Hence I am now a social entrepreneur.
Nool By Hand & The Chennimalai Case Study. The connection & How did it come to be?
Chennimalai is our native village, 27 kms away from Erode. It is a handloom village, which had over 100,000 handloom weavers a decade ago. However, the threat of commercialization led to a decline in the number of weavers. The craft is in its verge of extinction. That is when Five P Venture, a handloom fabric manufacturing company that began with a magnificent vision – to revive the Chennimalai cluster was started. Once a thriving village, Chennimalai weavers (Tamil Nadu, India) boasted of the most exquisite handloom designs. The power looms long replaced the handlooms. It was only in 2012, my father Mr.Devarajan, along with trusted friends and associates came together, and instrumented a change to happen. A business venture took place with a focus on preserving India’s heritage and also giving back some love to the community. All the fabrics at Five P are woven by hand using traditional and eco-friendly methods. Thus began the manufacturing of beautiful fabrics and designs to meet the demands of the eco-conscious buyer.
With this given background, I had a support manufacturing system in place and that is when I thought I could come up with a brand for the Indian ethnic market. Fabindia, Malkha and Good Earth were some brands that inspired me. So I thought the brand name should be a Tamil word which should touch corners of the world and hence came up with the name NOOL by hand (‘Nool’ – meaning ‘thread’ in Tamil). For many generations, the artisans of Chennimalai have been weaving some very exquisite fabrics that were known for their workmanship, texture, design and durability. Today fashion has turned too fickle and too fast for skills to appreciate the detail and passion that these artisans put into their creations. NOOL finds an exciting way to reclaim this engagement between artisans and customers that once existed for handloom. The traditional skills are timeless in their appeal, but they need to stay connected to remain vibrantly sustainable, NOOL merely contemporizes the essence of this “connection” using an exhilarating fusion of western designs and eastern skill.
Its aims, challenges and reception.
Nool aims to cater to that group of people who are passionate about eco friendly conscious living. The fashion we create turn into “heirlooms” where every piece tells the story of Chennimalai, a weaver’s passion and a community’s livelihood.
The main challenge is the advent of fast fashion at cheap cost, which lures a number of people. The reception for NOOL has been very good in terms of the concept. With the world turning more towards organic substitutes there is a good appreciation for Nool products in all the platforms we have showcased so far.
Tell us about your weavers & their environments.
All our weavers are from the Chennimalai village. Now there are 15 weavers, which comprise both Jacquard, and Dobby weavers. They are originally trained to weave cotton and synthetic bed sheets, which are coarser. Now we have trained them to weave linen, denim and finer count materials, which they are learning with so much passion. Two of our NIFT interns Purnima and Rashmitha who worked with our weaver Mr.Rajendran for developing a furnishing collection, were so fascinated to find the weaver to be very sharp in understanding their design input and implement it on the textile so well. Two of the weavers Mr. Murugesan and Mr. Kandhasamy underwent silk training at the Bangalore Silk Board. Silk is something very new to the cluster and this would help the weavers enhance their skills for the niche market.
The environment in which the weavers are weaving is a Green Building with more space and no clutter. All the materials used in construction of the buildings are green materials. Chennimalai being a tropical place, these building materials helps to keep the work environment cool. The temperature inside the building is 3 to 4 degrees less that the external environment without any additional usage of equipment. Now surrounded by about 700 trees, we are planning to make the environment an eco friendly self sustained village by itself.
Tell us about the design team
One of the main missing factors in handloom was the lack of modern appeal to woo every kind of customer. With the help of technical and design experts we at NOOL began the process of sourcing raw materials and worked diligently with the weavers. There was an Australian team of three who came and did a case study of Chennimalai cluster.
They found that there is immense potential in the cluster and developed Handwoven Organic Cotton Indigo Natural Dyed Denim. After this came in Sita Bell our first designer Entrepreneur from the UK. She provided freelance design service for Nool and her styles where an instant hit at all the places where it was showcased. Moving forward we felt the need for an in-house design team in place and now Ms.Suhana, a textile designer who comes with an experience of running her own studio in Bangalore has joined the team. To infuse new fresh ideas we take up interns and graduate students from design schools for each season collections. Now we are moving confidently to take NOOL to new global heights.
– The TEAM is the strength for NOOL.
The showcase at the By Hand, From The Heart.
I came across By Hand from the Heart myself and also got to hear very positive responses from 3 friends of mine. All these days the exhibition that I came across were commercial exhibitions with re-sellers and machine made items. In India there are very few platforms like By Hand from the Heart to showcase the products of the real maker and which appreciates the artisan and the maker. So I really look forward for the Exhibit.
What is the most rewarding part of all of this for you?
The most rewarding part of all this for me is when I get to see the weaver feel proud of doing his profession and when his own children respect him for what he does.
What’s next for Nool By Hand?
We are planning to take Nool throughout India through establishment of our own online store and physical stores in this year. As the market expands, the number of lives we can touch will also expand and will pave way to sustain the rich tradition of India.