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How Waste Fabric Became a Tool for Women’s Empowerment

Employing and empowering the women from Mumbai's Mankhurd, Chindi makes home decor products and accessories using waste fabric from design houses and sewing units.

How Waste Fabric Became a Tool for Women’s Empowerment

A digital professional by day, Tanushri Shukla had been observing a daily occurrence in her family’s garment production company. Here, at the end of each day, kilos of fabric ended up in the waste bin. Seeing so much go to waste, Tanushri thought of transforming such scrap, known as ‘chindi’ in the tailoring community, into something beautiful and useful.

After toying with the idea for a long time, she finally decided to turn it into reality and launched Chindi – a Mumbai-based enterprise that works with marginalised women to help them earn a living through crafts.

Started with an idea to empower women and make them financially independent in a way which is also creatively satisfying, Chindi “helps transform women from marginalised neighbourhoods into financially independent craftswomen, by promoting skills they already have and providing further skills training.”

“They create handmade, ethical products by upcycling waste — primarily textile production waste from t-shirt factories and sewing units,” says Tanushri.

Chindi, which began in 2015, works with women from Mankhurd, where they have set up the Chindi Women’s Centre. The women belong to a community of migrants from north India who are exceptional with crafts like knitting and crocheting – skills they lost touch with after relocating to the Maximum City. The craftswomen are given training and provided support at the centre.

“Our sewing unit is in Mankhurd and we had employed some women for handwork from the community. They introduced me to their neighbours who became our first team of craftswomen,” Tanushri says.

“It’s easy to say do work and you’ll get paid. It’s hard to get quality, ask them to take time away from their housework and home duties, and hardest to convince their families to let them do this. Otherwise they are all mostly housewives,” she continues.

She adds that the craftswomen collaborate with product developers and fashion designers to create knitted, crocheted and sewn products made primarily with textile scrap that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

“We aim to bring a slower, conscious approach to the fast-paced industry of fashion and lifestyle,” explains Tanushri.

Currently run by a team comprising six craftswomen, a manager and skill trainer, Chindi combines Tanushri’s love for fashion with her passion of doing something for the environment.

She says that her initiatives make products using raw materials, which come from design houses and sewing units.

The zero-waste organisation has a range of products that includes rugs, bath mats, jewellery, and even pouches. Their products can be bought from Remade In India, Bengaluru, and Green the Map, Goa, and their website.

You may also like: From Plastic to Fantastic: How Pune-Based Entrepreneurs Upcycle Plastic Trash into Designer Purses!

Talking about the journey and future plans, Tanushri says, “In the early days people didn’t really understand why they should spend on something made with waste. But as consumers are becoming more conscious and understanding the value in handmade and upcycled, the response has been getting better and better.

“Future plans,” she adds, “are to focus more on collaborating with organisations producing textile waste to wish to do something with it and care about their sustainability.”

To know more about Chindi, you can visit their website here.

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