Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Generally speaking, a sweatshop is a factory where workers do piecework for poor pay and are prevented from forming unions; common in the clothing industry. With a lot of talk about these in the fashion industry, you have probably heard of enough already. However, have you ever been to or heard about the IT sweatshops emerging in every street of a developing country?

Every second street in Bangalore has an IT company working as an outsource for leading banks and telecom companies overseas. These IT companies charge the clients anywhere between $40-$120 per hour for each professional working for them, under a project. This can go higher if the work involves working in odd hour shifts or during weekends.

Many of the IT problems in the world are solved by checking a box, patching some computer code, or changing a setting on some program. The first time any IT professional debugs a problem, it may take them hours. The next time they see the same problem, the fix may take less than one minute. The best IT companies have their IT professionals store “how they fixed a problem” in a central database so that each professional is not “reinventing the wheel” every time a problem shows up.  An IT professional who scratches their head saying, “I saw this problem before – what did I do to fix it?” is an IT professional who will save his or her clients time and money by taking notes.

To save money outsourcing, most overseas companies find a source that has IT professionals that are both certified and experienced. Let me give you an idea of what these source companies are generally made of:

A top company in India working as an outsource for a top bank in developed nations like the US, UK, Europe and Australia:

  • Pays its employee roughly $2 per hour (yes, this is for real!) here in India.
  • Has limited desk space and hence the employees share computers and are asked to work in shifts to accommodate more resource.
  • Makes “optimal” use of space by arranging over 30 desks in a room with computers and these rooms do not have the air conditioners working most of the time!
  • Has a policy of making the employees work for a minimum of 9 hours a day (even at odd hours and public holidays) and there is no limit to the maximum number of hours they can ask one to work.
  • Sends their “deserving” (read: resources that can work for maximum hours without complaining) employees to work at the clients office overseas so that they can work for over 60 hours a week, including weekend support and also work on the public holidays both back home and abroad without taking any leaves whatsoever.

Now if this is NOT a sweatshop, what is? And to think of it, this is the state of a top company in India.

An IT professional spends all his life educating and equipping himself only dreaming of one day working in this India’s number one IT firm and what he faces when he wakes up is just another story!

On a lighter not, here’s a metaphor showing us the state of an IT professional in India and his employee:

Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a bold woman approached him.

“It’s you — Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait! I insist.”

So Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the women his work of art.

“It’s perfect!” she gushed. “You managed to capture my essence with one stroke, in one moment. Thank you! How much do I owe you?”

“Five thousand dollars,” the artist replied.

“B-b-but, what?” the woman sputtered. “How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!”

To which Picasso responded, “Madame, it took me my entire life.”

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AHIMSA silk is made using a PATENTED process without killing silk worms. In the year 2002, the Indian government granted this unique patent to Mr Kusuma Rajaiah. Do not be fooled into buying AHIMSA from anywhere else because this is a patented mulberry silk produced only in one place in the world. Patent for eco-friendly manufacturing of mulberry silkworm yarn has been granted to Kusuma Rajaiah by the controller of Patents, Designs, Trademarks and Geographical Indications for 20 Years.
Do you know that silk yarn is produced from silk worms?
Do you know that silk worms are being killed mercilessly to get the silk yarn/filament?
Do you know that 15 silk worms are being killed to get 1 gram of silk, 1500 silk worms are being killed to get one meter of woven silk (cloth)?
Do you know that a conventional silk consumer is indirectly causing cruel killing of Millions of innocent silk worms ?

Animal rights: As the process of harvesting the silk from the cocoon kills the larvae, sericulture has been criticized in the early 21st century by animal rights activists, especially since artificial silks are available.
Mohandas Gandhi was also critical of silk production based on the Ahimsa philosophy “not to hurt any living thing.” This led to Gandhi’s promotion of cotton spinning machines, an example of which can be seen at the Gandhi Institute. He also promoted Ahimsa silk, wild silk made from the cocoons of wild and semi-wild silk moths.Ahimsa silk is promoted in parts of Southern India for those who prefer not to wear silk produced by killing silkworms.

The man who made it happen today:


Kusuma Rajaiah from India conducted research in the field and invented the technique of getting silk yarn from cocoons without killing the silk worms, for the first time in the World in the year 1991. After prolonged research the Ahimsa silk is made marketable in the year 2001.
In our production process child and forced labor are not engaged and there is no discrimination on the basis of sex.
The Hindi word “ahimsa” means Non-violence. It is used to describe this innovation because the fabric is manufactured in a process where silkworms are not killed. For this reason, the product is also known as peace silk. Ahimsa silk is extracted after the silkworm has completed metamorphosis and emerged from the cocoon. Considering the increased awareness of animal protectionism around the world.

Kusuma Rajaiah, a senior technical assistant with a government organization in India, is tasked with the responsibility of developing ahimsa silk into a viable commercial product.
There are many types of silkworms, but Bombyx mori is mainly used for commercial cultivation. The silkworms are placed in bamboo baskets and fed mulberry leaves. As they consume the leaves, the insects exude viscous fluids through head glands. These substances are fibroin (raw silk) and sericin (bonding gum). The substances harden upon contact with air, forming the basic silk filament, which is a combination of two fibers held together by the gum. The silkworm oozes out the fibroin continuously for about 1,000 yards, forming an oval nest or cocoon. But as the worm is still alive inside the cocoon, this poses a problem for devotees who respect all living things big and small.

In the production of regular silk, the cocoons are immersed in boiling water to kill the worms and spool the silk yarn. With Ahimsa silk, however, cocoons are left alone for seven to 10 days. Once the worms mature, they are allowed to pierce the cocoons and fly away as moths. Only then does the manufacture of peace silk begin. Each cocoon is checked individually to ensure that the moth has escaped before the silk thread is spun.
Spinning takes around two months and weaving another month. In other words, shipments can be ready three months after the moths escape. We can produce up to 2,000 meters per month.

Ahimsa silk is promoted as having the popular properties of regular silk. Even though it is slightly less lustrous, it is even softer to the touch. Currently, it remains a niche product due to its higher price range.

“While normal silk fabric of the 80 gsm varies in price with that ahimsa of the same quality, people are becoming more environmentally aware and compassionate to animals.  

Though Ahimsa silk may not replace regular silk, we are confident it will be adopted by those who are concerned about the flora and fauna” says the humble Mr Rajaiah.


So Ethic, Melbourne is the exclusive importer-distributor for this finest-quality cruelty-free Mulberry silk fabric. For those of you who would like to source this beautiful and thoughtful fabric in any quantity, can get in touch with So Ethic []

Love and peace xo








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Sass Brown
Sass Brown is the resident director for the Fashion institute of technology’s study abroad program in Florence, Italy. Originally from London, England, Sass established herself as a designer with her own signature collection selling in the U.K and across Canada. As an academic, her area of research is in community outreach and ethical design practices in fashion businesses. she has published papers and spoken around the world on the topic of sustainable design, has worked and volunteered in women’s cooperatives in Latin America, and taught workshops to manufacturers and fashion enterprises in Peru. Her book, eco design, for British publishers Laurence king, is also translated into Italian and Spanish, with the intent of showcasing some of the best expressions of eco fashion around the world.

My interaction with Sass started a couple of years ago while I worked at the Samant Chauhan design team in India. Sass was then researching on the designers she intended to showcase and her knowledge and interest in the subject had got me totally impressed.

The success of this book “Eco fashion” is no surprise to anyone who knows Sass. She has worked hard on her research and made sure that the the examples within it will act as a model for new and upcoming designers. This has become the most referred book in the sustainable fashion field and will continue to be so for many years to come.

Published by Laurence King


Sass Brown on her book “Eco Fashion” : My hope is that this book and some of the examples within it will act as a model for new and upcoming designers. One of the biggest problems for the next generation of designers is the lack of high profile examples of how to incorporate sustainability and good design. I hope this book will act as just that, a model of what is possible, what can be built upon, and what is already being done. All the best work in any area of product development, from science to design builds upon the past, and furthers the concepts of their predecessors. Our future lays in the hands of designers of every stripe, from products to systems. We can sink in more throw away, designed to be obsolete fashions and products that bury and poison our environment, or we can design ourselves a new future. The eternal optimist, I hope for the later.

Excerpt from my interview with her earlier this week:

Bhakti: Let’s start with the obvious question, Sass- what drove you towards eco-fashion? Sass:  I am a designer by trade, and so have always had a close connection with the industry.  I sort of fell into teaching around 10 years ago, which was a blessing for me, as I was a bit burned out by the industry, having moved from my own label to up of merchandizing in the corporate side of design, and teaching gave me the freedom to explore other areas of design.  very early in my academic career, I was invited to speak on behalf of fit at an international textile conference in Rio, Brazil, and by chance had just read an article about Carlos Miele and his work with women’s cooperatives in Brazil, one of which was based in Rio, who I met during my scheduled visit.  that introduction turned into me writing several grants to work with the cooperative, which started as volunteering, and developed into creative direction, working directly with the artisans in development etc, which grew into me advising and working with various groups in brazil and Peru, giving talks, workshops and consulting and designing, all working with various crafts and techniques, but who needed help to position themselves in a very sophisticated global market place, not as craft cooperatives, but as creators working with traditions techniques and techniques that should be highly prized.  my working with cooperatives, and not for profits in developing countries extended into sustainable fabrications not just sustainable development, which led to more writing, more papers, then the book and now the website and resource guide.

Bhakti: How difficult was it to find the genuine eco fashion and ethical fashion designers throughout the globe? Sass: one of the most refreshing things about the eco fashion movement as opposed to the mainstream fashion movement is the willingness of everyone to share information. there is a general understanding that we all have to support each other for the sustainability of the industry as a whole, so every designer I came across introduced me to other, many times, their biggest competitors.  This is something that is of course all but unheard of in the mainstream fashion system.

Bhakti: Having said that, we know that “Eco fashion” is the most misused term in fashion today, did you have to perform any checks to make sure they are genuine?

Sass: In most cases I visited the company/label, but not in all.  In the end there is a certain amount of trust that went into the gathering of information.  To back that up however, this is an area of design that requires by default absolute transparency, so there is a high expectation of honestly with an equally corresponding high delivery.

Bhakti: As you mentioned visiting the company/labels, I recall that you conduct workshops for manufacturers in fashion. Can you tell us more? Sass: I have given many day long workshops mostly on the design development process and how existing small businesses or even large businesses move into creative development instead of simply production.  So in short, the creative process; where you get inspiration, how you apply that inspiration to your designs, market etc.  In many cases the companies and individuals that have attended those workshops have been individual designers, large companies do product development for others and NGOs and cooperatives looking to break out of a market that undervalues their products into one that values them. I have also given many talks on eco fashion, mostly over viewing who’s doing what around the globe, as a means of showing concrete and inspiring models of what is possible without sacrificing design.

Bhakti: Coming back to your “Eco fashion”, this book has become the best reference source for eco fashion today, how does it feel?Sass: It has been an uphill struggle, but I am committed to showcasing the work of some outstanding labels and designers, and blowing the out of date myth that eco design is bad design, or basic design at best, but that it can stand against the best of the best the fashion industry has to offer and not come up short.   the hope was that the book, now also the website, would develop into a sort of definitive guide or one stop shop for great eco fashion, not watered down by mediocrity or green-washing.  but one place you could always refer to for aspirational ecological or ethical fashion and only fashion, not interiors, not basics, not cosmetics, but aspirational fashion at various tiers of the market, at multiple price points and for multiple tastes, whether expressed as cerebral, intellectual, playful, naive, pretty, feminine or urban, but always good design.  There is still quite a way to go to becoming the definitive source, but every journey starts with a single step!

Bhakti: And that step has been taken, for sure! What is the road ahead looking like for eco and ethical fashion according to you? Sass: For the industry as a whole, the future is bright. There is so much innovation going on, and new labels and committed individuals entering the arena all the time, alongside others establishing a more consolidated presence. There are the beginnings of an eco fashion press happening with more and more coverage by the mainstream media, plus some new publications such as above magazine for example.  My hope is that the industry will continue to move up market, and will forge its own fashion systems, as mimicking the existing one is not the future, and can’t be.  Aspirational design is what drives a market, so there must be aspirational designers at the lead of this movement.

Bhakti: I hope and wish just like you, that this is indeed the beginning of a new era in Fashion. We would love to keep in touch and follow your journey. Tell us, what are you working on lately?

Sass: The website and blog continue to develop and grow, with a different eco designer featured each week, an ever expanding resource guide and an eco fashion calendar.  There are ongoing plans for the website- Firstly, with the information growing on it all the time, there is the need to subdivide  information, make it searchable etc, so that is an ongoing endeavor.  Then, to expand into a more diverse segment of the market, such as men’s wear for example.  Also, the considerations of adding an e-commerce component to it is on the cards, although these are far from decided as yet. I am in the early stages of working on an eco fashion exhibit that can tour and am also working on another eco fashion book. Lots of other exciting things that it’s not fair to talk about until their future is decided upon. I’m off to London fashion week now and Estethica and Eco luxe, the two green shows in the U.K this weekend!

Bhakti: I would love to host a similar presentation and book signing event in Australia and also a workshop in India. Would you be keen? Sass: Always interested in both of the above!

I wish Sass lots more success and shall continue to be her fan! For others who would like to keep in touch with Sass and Eco Fashion: Here are the links you should be clicking on right away: Facebook, Twitter, Website and Blog.

Can’t wait to witness one of her inspiring talks? Here’s a link to her a talk on behalf of the museum at FIT, about her book Eco Fashion presented at FIT in October 2010. This is 50 minutes of poor goodness and inspiration so make time for it before you continue J

Love and peace,

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Isabelle Quehe, founder of the Universal Love Association, is actively promoting ethical fashion and fabrics – fabrics made from ecologically friendly sources or produced by manufacturers using ethical labor codes.


Universal Love started 15 years ago, in 1995 to support young artists and artisans because they were not enough venues in Paris to showcase their art to the public and to sell them..Today, it is without doubt the biggest name in the ethical fashion industry.


The Universal Love Association spread the word further with its Ethical Fashion Show, something that Quehe came up with herself and set up in two years. “I realized that nobody in France was talking about Fair Trade and these passionate designers were never presented in Paris, the fashion capital,” Quehe said. Even though several passionate designers in Europe were on board with Quehe, “the biggest challenge was to prove to fashion professionals that conscious fashion could exist and would become the future.”

The big news came for Issabelle when Messe Frankfurt expressed interest in taking over the Ethical Fashion show. Further to their discussons and in the best interest of the EFS, Messe Frankfurt acquired the Ethical Fashion Show last year and produced their first season in late 2010.

“This has helped me leave the logistics and the business part to them, so that I can concentrate on the artistic part of the vision” says Isabelle.

Here’s an excerpt from my chat with Isabelle:

Bhakti: What prompted you to start the Ethical Fashion Show?Isabelle: My meeting with the two great designers : Oumou Sy and Bibi Russell. They share my vision that Ethical fashion could help their countries in saving the know-how of the weavers and local crafts. Bibi is my god mother and her work to save the Bangladeshi craft is the most humbling, to say the least. Oumou Sy (Sénégal) is instrumental in making a ready to wear collection at the price of the “second hand clothing” sold on the local market. They both drove me to keep faith in the long-term vision of Universal Love.
Bhakti: We know the EFS, Paris is a great success, what is your plan ahead for rest of the world?Issabelle: We want at this moment, to strengthen the EFS in Paris and later perhaps take it to Milan and NYC.

Bhakti: The Australian fashion community is very conscious about Ethical fashion and keep a check on what they create and wear.  Can we expect to see your show here in this country?Isabelle: It would be with a big pleasure that Universal Love , the association that launched Ethical Fashion Show organises a catwalk with some of your Australian brands along with the international ones that we promote through Ethical Fashion show. Now that you are there, we will look at the possibility.

Bhakti: Thank you, Isabelle. We look forward to seeing you here. Speaking of Universal love, what are the on-going and future projects of the organisation?Isabelle: In the current age of runaway globalisation with its tendency to make everything homogenous and simplified, cultures and skills are the pillars of a world rich in diversity and history. Thankfully, traditional skills have survived passing trends to reach us through the ages.
Today, thanks to international exchanges, these skills have intermingled, producing a fusion of designs which please the eye. These artforms have huge potential and maybe the originality and excellence of the techniques which produced them can teach us a few lessons about respecting mankind and the environment.
With Universal love, we are dreaming of organising an exhibition in The fashion museum of Paris (Musé Galliera) with all the natural materials from all continents and show case their ancient know-how.
Universal Love is particularly interested in the protection of the ancient skills and traditions in fabric making across the world. Therefore, ensuring that culture specific skills are sustained and maintained by always making sure that their working conditions are in accordance with international labor organization, we aim to achieve our long term goals. I quote Mahatma Gandhi at every given chance: “There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness!”
We at Universal love believe that it’s very important to protect all the traditional crafts and skills for the future generation and hence this year we aim to work more than ever to support the handicraft cooperatives engaged indevelopment projects from all over the world.
In order to achieve this and to make a beginning, we launched  an accessories collection made in different countries by co-operatives promising to create jobs ethically under the brand name UNIVERSAL LOVE.
The first collection comprises of some cravates (ties), ceintures (belts) and foulards (scarves) made in Rio de Janeiro by the women in jails. We also have some products that are made with recycle materials in Madagascar, crochet jewels made in Brasil, bags made in Peru and some boots made with embrodories in Russia.
Universal love has also started producing Tee shirts and jewellery that are made by the folks in Niger (Africa).
All the benefits are used to  showcase one of the cooperatives to participate with a showroom and catwalk at the Ethical Fashion Show, each year. This will allow the cooperative to present its work in front of a professional and international audience and hence allow international exposure for them.

Bhakti: You have done a great job in creating awareness and supporting Ethical fashion. For me, Ethical fashion has been synonymous with Universal Love for a long time, what has been the biggest challenge for EFS according to you?Isabelle: To survive the initial few years was the biggest challenge because it wasn’t so easy to convince partners and public of the importance of ethical fashion and to explain the meaning of these words to them. To explain to people that ethical fashion is NOT for the poor but  more so for the rich to understand and follow. Now that the teething problems have passed, we are in a more comfortable position and are raring to go!

Bhakti:  I wish you very good luck and lots more success. Before I let you go, tell us- who is your favorite fashion designer? Isabelle: There are plenty and I can’t give you just one name. Linda Maï Phang, Ada Zanditon, Ethos, Ak Classics, Samant Chauhan, Terra Ecologica (Charlene O’Brien) would be the names I vouch for. Also, Veja for their trainers and  Ombre Claire for the jewellery.

End of excerpt

I have known Isabelle for about three years now. Her undying faith in the future of ethical fashion and her dedication towards the cause is a constant inspiration to me. She is a name that most industry people idolise and I have been rather fortunate to know her personally.

Wishing Isabelle and ethical fashion a great future,
Yours truly,

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