We are thrilled to share a recent conversation with founder of Nokshi Crafts, Maisha Samiha, about vision for the organization and the sector.
Background – how it all began
The Rana Plaza incident was a horrible tragedy that really put into context the complexities of fast fashion and social responsibility, and personally, it motivated me to find an alternative approach to the problem from a different angle.
While the tragedy was sadly an incident that happens frequently in the industry, the Rana Plaza incident shed light on the working conditions and the missing social safety net for the workers who are subject to adverse working conditions. As tragic as it is, incidents like this spark the right conversations and questions the status quo. My goal is to show the world that an alternative production environment, one that is socially and environmentally sustainable, is within reach. Ultimately, through my business I want to provide the opportunity for responsible consumers to make the right decision. Alternatives need to be shown and promoted to not only empower artisans but also empower consumers to create a shift in market trends towards some positive change.
The name Nokshi is derived from the Bengali word Noksha or Naksha, which means artistic patterns. It is mainly used to describe hand embroidery done by local women on recycled saris to turn them into quilts. In my current collection (and in future collections), consumers will get to see tons of colours, patterns, and unique designs that will be developed by creative artisans. So it seemed most appropriate to name my company Nokshi Crafts.
As a start up business in ethical fashion we rely heavily on our artisans and our team of designers at Hand Touch Bangladesh. Hand Touch is a social enterprise based in Dhaka, Bangladesh who directly employ artisans from different parts of the country in order to keep the handloom industry thriving. Our designers envision the prints on our scarves and our artisans turn designs in to pieces of art. We directly collaborate with our artisans through Hand Touch, from hand-weaving to hand-painting. Initially, the scale of the operation will depend on the demand. Based on our Kickstarter campaign’s success, we intend to scale up operation to include as many artisans as possible and expand our reach to include more artisans as part of our ethical fashion movement.
The process & raw materials
We wanted to showcase to the world the finest form of hand-painted fashion accessory. There is a lot of existing fabric that we could use as the base for our scarves. However, we choose to go the extra mile and find a rare and fine type of silk that could be hand-made. This is in keeping with our hand-made theme but also allows us to have full control of the silk production process. Our silk exudes premium quality with its soft buttery feel which is extremely light and durable. Hand-made silk and hand-dying on silk is a century old art of producing garments. It is a very sustainable way to produce fine silk garments and sadly, is is becoming a lost art due to the focus on fast fashion.
My team and I design and produce prints and work directly with artisans in rural communities to produce these prints on the silk garments. A lot of effort goes into getting the print and color right. Hand-made means every piece is unique in its own way – the imperfections on each piece provides character and helps tell the story of the personal touches of the artisan.
Our raw material is silk. Silk worms fed shopped mulberry leaves produce silk cocoon, which ultimately produces some of the finest silk on the planet. Our silk is called Rajshahi Silk, named after the northern part of Bangladesh where this silk originates. Rajshahi Silk is known for its soft buttery feel and durability. Handmade silk is also very different than machine made silk in their texture and feel. This is also evident in Rajshahi Silk. Our challenges include silk cultivation and hand weaving silk into blank scarves before they can be dyed or hand-painted. The cultivation and hand-weaving process is the limiting factor. Hence, we decided to embark on a Kickstarter campaign to get a head start on the hand-weaving process to carry an inventory of blank scarves which can then be hand-dyed or hand-painted.
We want to tell a story through our products. We intend to tell this story to appeal to the conscious consumer in everyone. While our products may appeal primarily to women who like to accessorize with a scarf, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and we leave it to our conscious consumers to make that decision. Fashion has no boundaries; everyone has the right express themselves by wearing their favourite piece of art.
Our brand is the tool to create awareness about our mission. It is a great way to bring transparency to the ethical fashion model and show the world not only it’s benefits but also the positive potential of an alternative production environment to the contemporary fast fashion model. Our brand and our products are a testament that an alternative exists where conscious consumers can create positive change that is socially and environmentally sustainable.
We have lots of creative designs in store! We are constantly experimenting with new colours, patterns and prints to elevate the art of expression through our scarves. Our scarves are not just fashion accessories but also a great way to tell a story about each and every artisan who provides a personal touch to every single scarf. Our artisans are very talented and we will continue to show the world with new collections to show the world the potential of hard-made goods. In time, we’d like to expand our brand to hand-paint on not only scarves but also other hand-painted goods such as hand bags, backpacks, and clutches.
For more information about Nokshi Crafts and their Kickstarter campaign, visit: http://www.nokshicrafts.com/