By Hand From The Heart is a curated Makers Market event in South India. Upcoming Events: 22nd Edition: 2nd – 3rd February '18 in Coimbatore | 23rd Edition: 16th – 17th – February '18 in Chennai.
Today on Meet The Maker series we feature Shree Bharathi of Nool By Hand – a sustainable fashion label from Erode. Let’s find out more about her company, her weavers, work space and Nool’s showcase at By Hand From The Heart Makers Market event in Chennai.
About yourself and your venture.
I am Bharathi Devarajan 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.
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 art form 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 dad 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 now 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 handlooms. 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.
Your weavers & team.
All our weavers are from the Chennimalai village. Now there are 20 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 developeing 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.
About your work space.
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 equipments. Now surrounded by about 700 trees, we are planning to make the environment an eco friendly self sustained village by itself.
Handloom is a zero carbon emitting industry. Even then for the minimum power consumption a Swiss based solar power generation system is in place in the weaver’s studio. The battery saves up energy and even in the nights it is used. There is enough water supply as the weaver’s studio is situated near the agricultural land.
The weavers who work with us are given fair wages. They work from 9 to 6 and are treated with dignity. They are given year long employment and 10 days of paid holidays for various festivals round the year. Health and medical insurance are provided for the weavers.
To infuse new fresh ideas we take up prominent freelance designers, interns and graduate students from NIFT and NID for each season collections. Now we are moving confidently to take NOOL to new global heights.
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.
Share us your favourite design story.
My favorite design story: It was great fun working on our recent spring summer collection 2017 “Kattam” , from concept stage till photoshoot and product launch. We at Nool try to name all our collections in Tamil. And since this collection comprised of grids and checks we named it as ‘Kattam’ which means checks in Tamil. For the first time I tried my hand on content writing. And my explanation for the collection goes as follows:
Kattam which means ‘checks’ in Tamil. It is to depict the liberation of the modern day women – not struck in the shackles of her checks – it may be her boxed kitchen or her checked square work cabin or the kind of checks she has in her head, perception, instinct or imagination. Rather She is born to liberate herself and the humans around her.
“I am relieved
I see the feminine presence
In a man’s eyes.
He is at peace
I do not
bring to him”
Salt. By NayyirahWaheed
Writing this was an awesome experience as I could feel a sense of fulfillment on working on this collection with my Team.
Describe your target audience.
Our target audience belong to the age group is 22-55. Our target audience are modern day women who love slow fashion and enjoy wearing a piece of handmade cloth. The styles and colours are versatile to be worn for work as well as a casual wear.
Tell us about your showcase at the By Hand, From The Heart.
This time we are showcasing three different collections and we are thrilled about that. Chennai has always been a great support and been a part of our beautiful journey. Also most importantly we are launching our first collection of sarees. These sarees are the first ever sarees woven at Chennimalai handloom cluster, where all our products are woven by the artisans at our weaver’s studio. The cluster is known for weaving low-end bed sheets. This maiden effort has brought a lot of joy for our weavers who are predominately women. They felt so glad to have woven sarees for first time in their career. Most of them have more than 30 years experience in weaving. We are overwhelmed to showcase our first Chennimalai sarees in By Hand, From the Heart.
What’s your favourite pick from your collection right now.
Arundati and Susan are my favourite picks right now from our collection because of their colour and silhouette.
Your previous BHFTH market experience.
Our previous experience at BHFTH was fantastic as it was one the very few platforms for direct manufacturers like us. We are a social enterprise. Though we are privately owned all the earnings go back to build the community of our weavers. So with the help of platforms like BHFTH we are able to surpass middlemen and directly take the benefits to our artisans.
Chennai – the city and its shopping behaviour.
As I mentioned earlier Chennai has always been a great strength for us and we as a team coming from Tamil nadu, the kind of support for a homegrown brand like ours has been great. That too when people see a lot of other state artistic shops and then reach to us where Erode is mentioned on our Fascia, there is a sense of pride and happiness on the faces of the visitors and they wish whole heartedly for our success. It’s a pure pleasure and we cant wait to come to Chennai again with our new creations.
By Hand From The Heart: MAKERS MARKET – 20th Edition
Date: Friday – Saturday, 7th – 8th July, 2017
Time: 10:00 a.m – 8:00 p.m
Venue: Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park
Address: 132, T.T.K Road, Alwarpet, Chennai – 600018, Tamil Nadu. India