How protecting India’s craftsmen became Sarita Handa’s mission statement

Suparna Handa / November 1, 2017

Sarita Handa began in my grandmother’s house in 1992, with my mother’s love for textiles. As an army wife, she had travelled across the country gathering fabrics from hand-embroidered napkins to elaborate sarees. Her collection reflected her eye for detail and an understanding of the craft, leading Dad to invest all of his savings into her brand.

My journey with Sarita Handa began by just being around my mother. From hand-embroidered bedspreads to wall art, my mother brought in her own contemporary take on Indian craftsmanship to our home. Growing up, every Sunday my father would buy flowers from the market and Mom would arrange them exquisitely. I think I was being groomed even before the business came into ideation.

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A typical Sarita Handa space is both cosy and chic

With nothing more than a few tailors, a list of customers she wanted to be associated with and a whole lot of zeal, my mother progressed to a workshop in Tughlaqabad, Delhi.

It was then that Sarita Handa Exports got their first international client, a German catalogue company called Heine GMBH, which owned companies like Spiegel Inc. and Eddie Bauer in the U.S. A few months later, the brand started working with other firms like Grattan and Kaleidoscope, and finally bagged Bloomingdale’s in 1994.

Taking Indian aesthetics to a global platform and representing traditional skills with contemporary accents has always been the core of our brand. In two decades, the company translated the art of Indian needlework into beautiful craft intensive collections.

When I see the evolution of our product, I see that Indian heritage has remained, while the interpretation of it has adapted to today’s world.

India has so much heritage and craftsmanship to offer and it is our responsibility to support this. The West often comes to India for inspiration, and we do believe it is because of the originality in Indian craftsmanship. “Made in India” is the legacy of thousands of weavers, spinners and craftsmen who have, over the past several years, kept the art of handmade fabric alive, and home grown brands like us need to recognize the potential in it.

We realized that the export side of our business only contributed to the grass roots level.

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From its inception, our company has always been a woman-driven initiative, and has supported women across our workshops. Women were especially employed at the Tughlaqabad village, providing them livelihood and a chance at a better lifestyle.

Twenty-five years later, the company abides by CSR with a workforce of more than 3000 people.

One of my favourite stories to tell is about a woman who was our quilting sub-contractor. She came in to work with her son one day, and he began working for us as well – from finishing products to merchandising. The work experience left him qualified for bigger things, and he went on to explore them.

Ultimately, giving back to the community that has given us so much in terms of tradition and resources only fulfils what we do at Sarita Handa.

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