Friday, 14 March 2014

Project Karchob is Bringing Artisans into the Spotlight!

"India’s rural artisans and craftspeople are among the country’s greatest creative and cultural resources and are a vital part of the Indian economy. Yet despite their substantial contributions, rural artisans and craftspeople have been largely left out of India’s explosive economic growth and remain among the poorest groups in the country" - Artisans of Fashion

It's with great pleasure that I introduce you to a young woman who is determined to shine a light on both the talent and the life stories of artisans living in Uttar Pradesh, India. Aafreen Hasnain has hit the ground running since graduating from University only last year, starting Project Karchob in order to promote the skills and work of the artisans of Uttar Pradesh through the non profit organization Jyoti Welfare Association based in Lucknow.

According to her research more than 60% of the artisans are women, less than 10% of whom are educated beyond Grade 5 and due to a strict Caste System, a section of these women are given a lower wage than the others. Aafreen and her colleagues have made a conscious decision to create significant positive change within this artisan community!

I spoke to Aafreen recently about her work, inspirations and the future of fair trade in India. 

Q. What inspired you to work with artisans based in Uttar Pradesh and to create Project Karchob? 

I have grown up seeing my Mother work with artisans; I have been observing and learning from her since my childhood.

I started Project Karchob as I had strong faith in the work being done by the community and that their designs can be used on products beyond Indian clothing, which would suit a wider audience thus helping the society by getting more customers and promoting the art of hand embroidery.  

Q. Where does the name ‘Karchob’ come from?

A 'Karchob' is a framework for making raised zari metallic thread embroidery, used by thousands of artisans to make beautiful hand embroidery. Our society is famous for it’s niche metallic thread work.

Q. How would you describe Project Karchob in 10 words or less?

Faith in hand work creates fair trade and innovative sustainable fashion

Q. Why do you think women are playing such an important role in fair trade projects around the world?

For India I can say the reason is because women were usually the ones who did not go out to work and hence they engaged in work they could do at home. Learning hand embroidery worked for most of them as they could sit at home and work while their kids and husband go to school and the office respectively. Even now, it is mostly the rural women who engage in hand embroidery as an income generating skill. 

As for the women doing fair trade projects, I would say it is compassion and an enthusiasm for working for the much earned credit and praise that the artisans deserve which is worth fighting for.

Q. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced while working on Project Karchob?

1. Lack of a brand value: People usually do not buy from a brand they do not know of and which does not have a strong online presence. The society, Jyoti Welfare Association is a small society and does not have a website with a payment gateway.

2. Designers: The society has very fine hand embroidery artisans and niche design techniques but we do not have designers who can make clothing for a western market or to make products beyond apparel. Hence we are looking for designers who want to use our skills and work with us in the field or remotely to make some beautiful embroidery pieces.

Q. Where can people purchase the items crafted by the project’s artisans?

People can visit our store in New Delhi, India to purchase readymade products or order customised products.

Currently we do not have an online store with a payment gateway, however we do have a Facebook page where people can view the products and send a message for the item they are interested in. 

Most importantly people who like our work can contact me directly at and I will be very happy to discuss our catalogue and assist in customized design for their products.

Q. Who or what is inspiring you right now?

I am inspired by lots of people working in the fair trade fashion sector but most of all I am inspired by the people I work with in the field i.e. the artisans themselves and the designers who work with us out of their comfort zone to continuously improve their designs on modern clothing and accessories.

Q. What does the future hold for Project Karchob?

Well, a lot of hard work for sure! I hope that through Project Karchob we are able to provide permanent employment to the artisans, as of now we have only work-based employment. 

You can follow Aafreen and Project Karchob on Facebook and Twitter!


  1. Good to hear of interest and help for these artisans. Maybe they could work with designers, who would brief them with new designs, relevant to the modern market.

    1. Hi Amelia! Thanks so much for dropping by - I'm glad you enjoyed the interview with Aafreen :) The Project Karchob team would love to work with designers who could help them create pieces with a more modern twist!


  2. I've been lucky enough to have attracted Aafreen via my ethical fashion store and my EFF group! I'm really excited to work with such a talent and can't wait to see what we can accomplish together!

    1. Hi Winston - that's fantastic news! :D Please keep in touch and let me know how your collaboration progresses.


  3. that hand embroidery is SO beautiful! and i enjoyed hearing more about the embroidery in India and how she's helping women move to fair wages, esp in the lower castes - wow how crappy that some would get lower payment for the same work just because of who they were born to : (. if she's looking for an online payment platform, could she go on Etsy? not sure if it's cost prohibitive for her to ship individual items from India, but I know for Mitla Moda, taking it from Storenvy to Etsy has been really great, I've found so many people go directly there instead of Googling, & it's esp impt as you work to build a brand image, which I can def relate to her with.
    Cuddly Cacti
    Mitla Moda

    1. Hiya Dus :)

      Thanks so much for your lovely comments and excellent advice for Aafreen!

      KB x

  4. Hi Kendall, only just noticed your reply! Thank you and it's going well so far...just added Aafreen's profile to our "Team Mancinism" page, plus her "History Of Chikan Embroidery" document to our "Downloads" page too...there's so much more exciting things we're going to do - the future's bright! :)

    1. Hi Winston! That's FANTASTIC news :) Great to hear it! I did notice that Aafreen's profile on your team page has her working for Kindness by Design which is incorrect ;-) It should read "Project Karchob".

      KB x