The Initiative: Bridging the gap between craft and consumer

The Initiative is an independent brand from Chandigarh, India that designs beautiful, one of a kind, hand-quilted handbags and accessories using up-cycled fabric. The fabric they use is garment production waste, and is given new life using craft to create functional products. The Initiative is determined to bridge the gap between artisan and the 21st century consumer. We spoke with founder Arushi Aggarwal to find out more.

Image: Upcycled-fabrics used to make the Large Tote Bag by The Initiative

I: How did the idea for the brand come into place?

A: Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is an event I go to every year. I remember watching artisans carving designs onto palm leaves. I could stand for half an hour just watching them. Of course, eventually he would want me to purchase something. It wasn’t about the price of the craft but what do I do with it? I lived in a house with no spare walls or blank spaces, so where was I going to put this 4x5 feet artwork to support this artisan? Coming from a design background, the functionality of the product became very important to me. A lot of our traditional crafts are really beautiful but simply lack that connection to the 21st century consumer. A combination of my design background and this gap I observed at Kala Ghoda came together, becoming The Initiative.

I: What is your design background?

A: My design background is in product and service design. My focus is on the concept of how a product is designed - who it is designed for, the usability, the user experience, how it gets fixed, what happens once someone is done using it, etc. 

Laptop Sleeve by The InitiaitiveImage: Laptop Sleeve by The Initiative made using up-cycled fabric

I: Why “The Initiative”?

A: The brand name was given a lot of thought. I wanted a name that was craft agnostic - like it could be any craft. There was a deeper meaning to it from the perspective of all the craftswomen making the products, they took the initiative to change their lives for the better. It’s an initiative consumers take to support someone; and from my perspective, this is my initiative to use my knowledge and design background to make a difference.

I: What are your goals for the brand?

A: I want The Initiative to be a bridge between urban consumers and artisans - regardless of whether those artisans are urban, semi-urban, or rural. I want it to support artisans with a unique traditional skill. I’d rather have 100 artisans that I am completely empowering, than 10,000 to whom I give an occasional order to. The only real way to support something in today’s day and age is to put your money behind it. I hope that The Initiative can be that medium through which people are willing to put their money behind supporting someone that has a unique story.

Pouch by The InitiativeImage: Multi-purpose Pouch by The Initiative

I: What creative journey do you want to pursue?

A: The goal is to start expanding into different crafts. We are currently working with Godhadhis - a hand quilting technique native to Maharashtra. Now that I’m in Punjab, there are numerous crafts here that are severely under-appreciated. For instance, Phulkari (folk embroidery) is well-known, however, a lot of crafts are unknown so those are the crafts that I want to work with. 

I: What inspires you to create?

A: The artisans themselves. For them, it’s not production, it’s craft. Their own creativity and individuality is translated into each product. 

I: Who is your ideal customer?

A: I used to think it must be someone who appreciates craft, however, in the whole process of creating this brand my perspective has changed. I realise it can be people who support and purchase handmade. Someone who might not have previously been in contact with craft is now getting a sneak peak and can see that quality products are being made. 

"It is this meaningful connection we strive for, while designing our products. Merging a passion for handmade items and the rationality of product design, we bring that kind of soul and value into people's everyday lives. We believe that every one of them tells a story - where is came from, who made it and how every little cut, stitch, fold and hem is made by hands just like yours." - Arushi Aggarwal, The Initiative

Shop The Initiative's Organiser Books & Tote Bags on IN-D today!

Click here to see the collection.

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