MarketPlace: Handwork of India works with over 400 artisans, most of whom are women, who are organized into 13 independent cooperatives in India. Four of these cooperatives are Fabric Artisans, who dye our custom fabrics using an array of traditional techniques including hand block printing, ikat, batik and tie-dye. The other nine are the Artisan Cooperatives, where the fabric is cut, sewn and hand embroidered to complete the products.
The different cooperatives vary in size, structure, history and location. The common thread is adherence to the principle that the women are involved in decision-making at all levels of the business, and that they can plan and execute programs that enhance their lives and make a difference for their families and their communities. An artisan must meet certain criteria to qualify to join any of the cooperatives. These would include a background of economic hardship and limited access to employment opportunities in the general community. Many of these women have been deprived of educational opportunities, and some have faced hostility and discrimination due to their religion, marital status, or health.
What they all share, however, is a desire to become strong and independent. The design process brings members of the different groups together as they collaborate on the planning, production and delivery involved in each MarketPlace collection. There is a relationship of support and respect between all the cooperatives as the artisans build their own successful businesses.
MarketPlace is known for its use of hand-dyed cotton that incorporates traditional Indian techniques and motifs in more contemporary fabric designs. We work closely with our fabric artisans to develop our unique fabrics, an exceptional relationship in India where most fabric produced for export is controlled by middlemen. In that system, the fabric buyers never see the artisans and have no idea how they are paid or treated.
In contrast, MarketPlace can be sure that our fabric artisans’ operations are fair and open. The relationship is one of shared learning and collaboration, as both MarketPlace and the fabric artisans are challenged to create new colors, combine different skills, and devise fresh looks every season.