Students from the UK participate in a Doug-making session with women cotton farmers
Later this month, if you join the fair-trade, organic cotton clothing label, No Nasties, for a three-day trip to the interiors of Maharashtra, you will get to meet Doug.
Deriving its name from the Marathi word dhug, it's a cute, cloud-shaped fashion accessory, specifically a bracelet, made under the initiative Once Upon A Doug. You will also get to witness women cotton farmers from the region, handcrafting the bracelets using cotton fabrics. In case you are unable to sign up for it due to limited capacity, fret not. "We will plan a bigger trip soon," says Apurva Kothari, founder, No Nasties.
The seed of the project was sown in the 41-year-old's head six years back, when he started the clothing label. "I wanted to have an on-ground initiative, working directly with cotton farming communities to raise awareness of their challenges." He was unable to give it shape until recently, when two teachers from London's Pearson College approached Kothari to collaborate on a social enterprise project for the college's students in India. Then, they roped in the non-profit Chetana Vikas that works with farmer families for rural development in Maharashtra. Today, the project is a 100 per cent volunteer-run initiative. "Every year, a fresh batch of students from UK comes to India to meet the women. The trip allows for a cultural exchange between them. The objective is to create a symbol for the cotton crisis in India and provide reliable secondary income for the women cotton farmers we work with," informs Kothari.
The bracelet can also be used as a bag tag
Currently, the team works with 12 trained women farmers, aged between 20 and 60, from parts of Wardha, Vidarbha and Akola districts, who take between 30 to 40 minutes to create a Doug. "They were trained by our in-house fashion designer, Shweta Deliwala," he adds. The team also contemplated using crochet cotton flowers and seed jewellery before zeroing in on a cloud as a symbol. "It not only represents the cotton communities but also something that is very relevant to the lives of the farmers," shares Kothari. The team uses raw materials from surplus garments at apparel factories and consumer recycled T-shirts.
While the UK team raises funds via marketing and distribution in their local regions, the proceeds go to the NGO. "We pay the women upfront for making the clouds." By March, Kothari hopes to stock the bracelets, priced at `100, at a few stores in the city, which are willing to support the project.
LOG ON TO: www.onceuponadoug.com