homegrown We still have Monday morning huddles and Tuesday afternoon production meetings, followed by Friday layout updates. The show must go on. Only this time from a new #VogueFromHome reality. And as we navigate magazine line-ups and future issue themes from the square-inch screens of our laptops, our aim remains to support the system on which we thrive—fashion businesses, brands (big and small), artisanal communities that transfer traditions into handmade products, and the craft clusters of our country. While the pandemic has brought with it an uncertain future for many sectors, it has also brought a pressing need for collaboration. After all, their predicaments and silver linings are shared and interlinked.
With this in mind, two creatives and likeminded compatriots, Natasha Khurana of jewellery label The Line and Bani Chawla of home decor brand Suit No. 8, turned their longtime collaboration, ‘Girls of Summer’ into the need of the hour: A support system for small businesses and consequently of the many that rely on them. What started three years ago as an attempt to showcase their brands alongside like-minded labels, in a small meaningful way, outside the format of large, overwhelming pop-ups, turns into Together Apart, wherein participating brands, Aish, Ayca, Jodi, Niana, No. 3 Clive Road, Suite No. 8, The Line, The Summer House and Urvashi Kaur, go on sale this weekend (May 1-3, 2020) on their respective digital shopping portals.
“Over conversations with design friends during the last couple of weeks, we all found ourselves in the same place, in terms of work,” explains Khurana. Suite No. 8 was set to launch three new collections and now that is dead inventory until they are able to sell it. Payments and orders have come to a halt, even as they pay advances to their artisans and craftsmen. For Jodi, being a small business means depending on consistent sales to maintain healthy cash flows, and taking care of their workforce. “Running costs are largely proportional to the scale of any business. Small businesses don’t have debilitating overheads and salary rolls, so we’re not in layoff mode thankfully. However it’s not easy for anyone at all, big or small. So the Together Apart digital sale is an attempt at trying to begin to find our feet in what looks to be a strange year,” says Khurana.
With this, each brand has pledged a part of their proceeds to Dastkar’s Artist Support Fund. First started during the Kutch Earthquake in 2001 to help rural craftsmen (entirely reliant on bazaars and direct orders) with immediate help and relief. Of course, India’s craftsmen are the backbone of its design prowess. The fund is now reactivated in the wake of COVID-19 shutdowns across the world. Currently in its first phase, its aim is to provide immediate relief and essentials to support small rural groups without access to other assistance. This includes medical and financial aid.
Khurana makes a compelling case for shopping local from small businesses when she says, “A lot of our business models are mindful of working in less wasteful ways. We’re all invested in the people who help us make our products. Of course, think of the carbon footprint of a piece made and sold in India versus a piece made in the subcontinent, then shipped to Europe and eventually shipped back across for retail. It’s really easy to snap out of our expendable linearity, if we only look at our backyard.” So go on, add to cart, save a small business.