Production trip -Women Weave 04//18
Having worked with women’s weave since the brand origin, we felt it essential to visit the centre and experience first-hand the amazing cloth they create for our collections and what they've achieved for the women working there.
Situated in central India, Maheshwar a river side town is set amongst rural villages and the most beautiful fort. I felt like we'd stumbled on an unknown secret, peaceful place. With Sadhu's washing along the river and the strong presence of female empowerment, you could feel it' spiritual significance.
It soon dawned on me on the production trip that Maheshwar wasn’t a renowned place and whilst talking to many people all around India, most of them had never heard of it or of it's location.
We realised getting there may not be the easiest trip with long buses, car drives and rickshaw’s but this made it all the more exciting. The bus journey from Jodphur to be exact was 17 hours, dishevelled with barely any sleep and no food when we finally jumped very quickly off the moving bus and then got in a taxi for another 3 hours, I think we’d lost all enthusiasm. Still when we arrived outside women weave and could hear the clacking of looms upstairs all my excitement came flooding back and I remembered just how important this moment was.
We were greeted with open arms and warm welcomes. It’s a really significant and exciting moment to be standing in a work place full of women confident, happy and content, especially in such a rural place in India. I have been used to and expected the women to be shy and cautious of our presence at first however they were anything but, it seemed work here had brought them self-assurance.
Using my broken Hindi we moved round and sat with the women weaving and spinning all day. I felt it inherent to experience, watch slowly the methods used and to talk to the females there about their work and lives.
Women of all ages sat in the room from 18 to women in their 60’s, all helping one another and all incredibly focussed on their daily weaving ritual. I felt total admiration for the spinning and weaving, it’s one thing knowing the process is a slow one, it’s another watching the patience and integrity they have with their work. All of them had an affinity with what they were doing and proud to show us what they were fabricating.
My main admiration was for the women spinning the raw cotton into yarn by hand, it was extremely hot and they told me of how their arms hurt from winding the machine by hand to spin the threads. I tried it out myself for all of a minute and my arm instantly ached from the force. However, this didn’t discourage them, they were clearly strong, happy and proud of this job.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon with the on-sight nursery and after school club for the women’s children. This allows the women to work knowing their children are being looked after and fed.
The older children continue to learn and do homework, we had difficult conversations about how most of the children in the area leave school before the age of 12, either to work or for marriage. Unfortunately for many rural areas with poverty, education doesn’t serve them.
However, this confirmed to us again why organisations such as women’s weave are not only vital for the female employees but for the families and communities involved to encourage education, vocational skills and significant, sustainable work. Previous to this all of the women were labourers doing field work out in the hot sun, which is tiring and intensive earning as little as 65p a day.
Although a long way to go I feel so intensely that this is what empowerment is and what the fashion industry should support.
Thoughts by Gracie Sutton, AK Threads founder during ED3 Production trip 04//18