Our stripe and check patterns are all designed in-house at our headquarters in New Orleans, Louisiana, before being passed to our partners in India, the Kala Swaraj Foundation, who bring them to life. The Kala Swaraj Foundation is working to revive handloom weaving in a small village in Madhya Pradesh. Madhya Pradesh used to have the largest population of handloom weavers in all of India, but since machine weaving was introduced with British rule, the craft has dyed out. Once home to 7,000 weaving families, only about 500 families are still weaving in Madhya Pradesh. However, as the Kala Swaraj Foundation states on their website, “Many people are coming back to understanding the economic wisdom and beauty of producing things slowly by hand, but unfortunately, around the world, much of the knowledge and skills that is needed for artisanal production has already been lost.” Reviving these skills is at the heart of the Kala Swaraj Foundation’s mission.
The Kala Swaraj Foundation works with a master dyer who has been developing his own techniques for 60 years, training his children to become his apprentices who will continue on with the family business. For decades, this master dyer has been using only AZO-free natural dyes in order to perfect the color, as he meticulously hand-dyes yarn that has been handspun from organic cotton — processed from plant to thread by fellow artisans in Madhya Pradesh. From there, the hand-dyed yarn is handloomed to create the fabric that makes up the garments you see in Lekha’s shop today.
This slow fashion creation process typically takes about 2 months once designs are approved — and we wouldn’t want it any other way. We feel that it is very important to work with the Kala Swaraj Foundation and the families who are reviving the handloom weaving skills in Madhya Pradesh because it puts the power back into the hands of the artisans, and revitalizes the economy in these rural villages for a more sustainable economic system.