@anchalproject // India
Anchal, pronounced on-chal, is the edge of the sari that is used to provide comfort and shelter for loved ones. Anchal Project is a non-profit social enterprise founded by four women who met at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and bonded out of the shared belief that design could be a catalyst for social innovation.
After a trip to Kolkata, India, the group witnessed the extreme oppression women face as commercial sex workers and the lack of economic alternatives available to this marginalized community. Crammed within the narrow alley ways of Kalighat’s red light district lived a community of women, men, and children who were involved in the Kolkata sex trade. In partnership with New Light, Anchal set out to provide an alternative for this community and communities facing similar challenges. Through fundraising efforts, they were able to buy a sewing machine, materials, and provide a stipend to the artisans and sewing teacher. In September 2009, 15 artisans gathered for the first time to be trained in kantha quilt-making.
Slowly over 5 years, the project expanded. In 2011, Anchal’s partner New Light, led to a collaboration with actress and human rights advocate America Ferrera, launching the Didi Collection. After receiving a grant from Dining For Women, Anchal expanded the artisan program in kantha quilt making, increasing artisan jobs from 15 to 90. This allowed Anchal to launch the Urban Outfitters’ Anchal x Urban Renewal 2013 Fall Collection. Each piece contained portions of hand sewn kantha quilts from vintage saris made by Anchal’s talented artisans.
Since then, the artisan program has expanded even further with a natural dye initiative. The program will train and employ 35 new women in natural dyeing and offer the 100 current artisans the opportunity to expand their skills in the design and textile industry.
Each piece continues to celebrate the environmentally conscious practices along with the integration of the overdye technique – a process deeply rooted in the region of Rajasthan, India.
A natural dye initiative will also serve to re-establish lost traditions of natural dyeing techniques and promote eco-friendly production. As the environmental and social damages of today’s industrialized textile system become more apparent, this program couldn’t begin at a better time.