How interwoven we are, this tapestry of humanity. The following story demonstrates this interconnectedness, and the impact of creating clothes in line with this understanding.
Some scene-setting: earlier this year, a few members of our production and sustainability team journeyed to India to visit our makers. The trip was born of a desire to foster a personal relationship with the makers; to gain a deeper understanding of their work and role within their community.
The wonderful makers sew some of Arnhem’s dreamiest concoctions into life, and sew hope and transformation into the local community through their partnership with the social enterprise SETU. The makers provide employment opportunities, sewing machines and equipment to SETU, whose vision it is to transform the lives of the underprivileged through support and empowerment of children, families and the community. SETU achieve this vision by directing resources to health, rehabilitation, literacy and education to increase employability in areas such as pattern and garment making. This is in line with their belief in in the fundamental equality and right to equal opportunity of all human beings. SETU also offer counselling for women to support them through the emotional challenges associated with joining the workforce. The training and support leads directly to self-sufficiency and livelihood, and indirectly to new leases on life.
Which brings us to the lovely face pictured above, belonging to Reena - one of our makers. Her story is one of transformation, and comes with a will-stir-heart warning. Her late husband was a machine embroiderer and following his death, she came accompanied by a male relative to collect his possessions, after which she planned to head back to her village where she and her two children would have to depend on her parents to survive, since Reena had no experience or training that would allow her to gain employment. Instead, her late-husband’s employers offered to train her in stitching. A fast learner, Reena mastered sewing within three months, and her efficiency and competency equalled that of the other tailors within six months. Reena is now one of our supervisors, and her two children’s education is sponsored by the organisation.
Reena is pictured above working together with our Sustainability Officer, Jyoti.
For Reena and her children, ethical measures in the fashion industry are anything but abstract or inconsequential- such measures returned her life. Reena’s success inspired our makers to search for a partner to help them scale up the movement of female tailors, and this was how the partnership with SETU came to fruition. Reena’s an emblem for the tangible, transformative consequences of recognising and respecting the dignity of the people creating our clothes, and its stories such as hers that inspire Arnhem’s ongoing dedication to ethical clothing production.
This compassionate and conscious approach also extends to the planet-the Stevie range is created from 100% organic cotton, meaning the sweetness being crafted here is of an environmentally sustainable nature. Conventional cotton demands extensive use of pesticides, insecticides and herbicides. As a result, farmers, factory workers and consumers are exposed to toxic chemicals and natural ecosystems are harmed. In contrast, organic cotton preserves biodiversity, improves soil health, prevents water contamination and requires far less energy and water to produce. Our use of organic, sustainable fabrics protects precious ecosystems, and also means that Reena and her colleagues are not breathing in the harsh chemicals associated with conventional cotton. This is in accordance with the understanding that no one aspect of the supply chain can be considered in isolation- ethical treatment of the environment leads to ethical treatment of people, and vice versa.
And what imagination this kind treatment of people and earth lends itself to. Pictured below are offcuts from that sunflowery sweetness. Rescued and re-purposed, dancing in the breeze, beckoning onlooker’s attention to the local community market are the off-cuts of Stevie. This penchant for recycling is common ground between us; we salvage offcuts from previous collections so they may reincarnate as the most sweetest, wearable pieces. You can read more about the recycling wizardry otherwise known as our Revive collection here.
The community markets remind the Arnhem team of the local Byron market, because although sights and smells differ, the same feeling of community, creativity and connectedness pervade, and global citizenry shifts from abstract idea to felt reality.
This story of clothing and opportunity creation is part of a larger, new story of which we’re all authors. It’s a story of connection to the earth; the life that grows from it and the hands that toil in it. Arnhem’s devotedness to ethical and sustainable fashion is indicative of our belief in our ability to bring a new, more compassionate and conscious world into being.