You’ve heard the old adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, but the same could be said for creating a garment – each piece of clothing from The ANJELMS Project is the result of many hours of work by many talented hands. We feel grateful that we can provide a living wage and help improve the lives of the skilled people at our partners The Stitching Project who dye, block-print, sew and embellish every single one of our items, as well as the rural husband-and-wife team who work hard to spin and loom our incredible khadi cotton cloth.
By purchasing one of our pieces, you’re directly helping to support and provide an income for our makers in Rajasthan, India. Together, we believe we can create radical change within the fashion industry and help build a world where every person is valued for their skills and earns a living wage from their work.
Our partners: The Stitching Project
Based in rural Pushkar, The Stitching Project is a solar-powered social enterprise started by Australian textile artist Fiona Wright and her husband Praveen. They provide fair work conditions, vocational training and a living wage to remote artisans who produce high-quality work, changing their lives – and those of their families – in the process.
As long-term partners, we work closely with The Stitching Project to create each and every one of our garments, and in turn, they rely on us to provide them with ongoing work. Throughout our partnership we’ve been committed to visiting regularly in person (with a necessary break during the pandemic), and during our most recent visit in April 2023, we were honoured to strengthen our bonds with the individuals who make up this incredible organisation. After living in India for many years, Fiona is now based back in Australia and running the logistical side of The Stitching Project remotely, while Praveen remains on the ground in India, managing the workers and employing and training new recruits.
Here’s how our items are created by The Stitching Project…
Dyeing and block-printing
All the fabric we use is naturally dyed and/or block-printed here. Although The Stitching Project predominantly employs women, the dyeing and block-printing are roles that are still carried out by men. Fiona’s husband Praveen hand-dyes our cotton with plant-based dyes that meet the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS), which are better for both the environment and skin health. The powdered extracts are prepared by being boiled to extract the colour, and then the fabric is submerged, resulting in a consistent and reliable shade across each collection. Additionally, some fabric is naturally plant-dyed, using vats of indigo, pomegranate, madder and gallnut to create a series of garments with understated, earthy hues.
Our unique block-prints are designed in our WA-based studio and sent by email to India, where they are hand-carved by The Stitching Project’s carver, Mr Satnaryan, onto fine-grain mature wooden blocks. The blocks are marinated in mustard for three days to protect them, and then cleaned and set to work. Ink colours are mixed, tested and recorded for future reference, before the master block-printer Pawan starts working his magic, dipping each block onto the ink board before carefully placing it on the cloth, and then repeating over and over with breathtaking precision until beautiful patterns emerge.
Cutting and sewing
Once the dyed or block-printed fabric is ready, it’s time to make it into a garment! Master patternmaker and cutter Bulbir ji is responsible for creating the patterns and sewing samples for the designs dreamed up in our Australian studio, which are then passed onto the six women who work on the sewing machines. They carefully piece each item together, using their impressive sewing and overlocking skills to ensure every piece of clothing has smooth seams, even hems and the high-quality finish you’d expect from an ANJELMS garment.
Hand-stitching and embroidery
Any hand-stitching and embroidery is carried out by a group of women affectionately known as ‘The Stitching Ladies’, who solely produce hand-stitched work for the project – providing them with opportunity, training and income, and keeping these traditional craft skills alive. Employed on a casual basis, the ladies stitch together until they are confident, after which time they’ll take it home with them to work on while they take care of their families and homes. Each completes an eight-week training course, which covers stitching standards alongside concepts like punctuality and reliability, and being part of the project enables them to connect and form friendships with women from different castes, which isn’t usually encouraged in their community.
Our spinner and weaver
Before our khadi cotton fabric arrives at The Stitching Project to be printed and transformed into garments, it is hand-spun and hand-loomed by a husband-and-wife team in a tiny village approximately 80 kilometres away. Working in tandem as part of a well-practised dance, the wife spins raw cotton from local fields first onto skeins and then spools, while her husband uses these spools on his hand-operated loom to create the fabric, little by little, row by row. She can spin three kilograms of cotton each day, which enables him to weave nine metres of khadi cotton – a high-quality, luxurious and breathable fabric with a soft hand feel. The duo is responsible for creating every single roll of fabric we use (enough for approximately 400 garments each collection!), which means each ANJELMS piece has a little bit of magic woven into it from their hard-working hands. Will you ever look at fabric the same way again? We know we won’t.