Inspired By India’s Artisanal Tradition with Fair Trade Values
Interview with the owner Shari
Q: How did you get started/ into the garment manufacturing industry in India?
A: I’ve been traveling to India since I was a child and spent several years doing research projects in India as a young adult, working with artisan communities. I also always had a love of textiles, particularly Indian textiles and had a solid background in sewing and design, so naturally all my interests and skills came together to develop a garment company in India working with artisans, and particularly block printing.
Q: What is the hardest part about working with India? What is the best part?
A: The biggest challenge is that we work on an artisan level so there are the natural delays due to weather, festivals, weddings, power outages—things that don’t affect large-scale businesses, but very much impact the timeframe of production on an artisan scale. The best part is working with real people and working from the ground up. Working with traditional crafts and making something beautiful.
Q: How you think that your factory is unique?
A: We have integrated a fair trade business model with artisan textile prints, high-end design for the Western markets and good communication with customers so that it is really possible to develop beautiful products, work with real people and do it in a genuinely transparent and ethical manner.
Q: What inspires you or what is something you are passionate about?
A: I love Indian textiles and working on the ground with real people.
Q: What does your typical day look like?
A: When I’m in Jaipur, my day is split between customer service, production management, design/product development and visiting the village where our printing is being done. I discuss accounts with our office manager, patterns and grading and details of production with our pattern master, email or Skype with customers and talk with block printers to check color and quality of the print.
Q: Why did you feel the need for organic cotton in the garment industry?
A: We source organic cotton specifically in India because we believe it helps the farmers to earn a living wage and have improved living conditions and health. For us, organic is about the farmers first, their health and livelihood.
Q: How would you describe your team?
A: Our team are a small group of people I deeply respect and appreciate. They are sincere, kind and work for the good of everyone rather than only for themselves. I have learned a great deal from them over the years. They take care of each other and the company with a level of humanity that touches me daily.
Q: What is a challenge you faced in the last week?
A: There are always challenges in the manufacturing business in India. Most recently we had to make sure we completed a print order before the weather conditions forced us to stop so that we could maintain our production schedule.
Q: Is there a motto (philosophy) that you have for yourself?
A: I always try and do what is in front of me to do to the best of my ability and to support everyone on our team in doing the same.
Q: What puts a smile on your face?
A:Seeing a beautiful print. Being part of a team.
Q: If you could change one thing in the garment industry what would it be?
A: Everything. The inherent inequalities in the power relations between fair trade manufacturers and large buyers which make fair trade an isolated portion of the supply chain, when in fact, it should be the ethical standard by which the entire supply chain operates. The longer answer is an ongoing global conversation…
Founder Shari Keller named her production house Mehera Shaw, aptly named after her mothers family name. Born in New York and raised in New Mexico, she had visited India with her family since childhood. Shari holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from University of Texas in Austin with an emphasis on artisan development in India. She is a self- taught designer and has learned pattern making, sewing from my mom. Since her move to India she has learned about India’s artisan textiles.
Based in Jaipur, India,Mehera Shaw is a fair trade and environmentally conscious garment manufacturer and non-profit organization. Mehera Shaw is a member of the Fair Trade Federation in the US. They are recognized as a leader in creating a safe, clean, non-discriminatory work environment with training and ongoing learning provided.
Mehera Shaw is designed to be an affordable, artisanal lifestyle brand focusing on wearability but always with aesthetic appeal. Inspired by Jaipur’s artisan printing traditions, retaining eastern culture in their work is important to this manufacturer and brand. They offer pattern making, grading, block printing, screen-printing, dyeing, sampling and small o medium-sized garment and houseware manufacturing.
Unlike most factories -every employee is given a permanent full-time salary. Consistent reliable orders are what they depend on to succeed.
Mehera Shaw is dedicated to using a vertical supply chain, using sustainable fabrics and artisan printed textiles. When it comes to environmental ethical practices, Mehera Shaw uses organic cotton, AZO free, low impact dyes, energy sufficient manufacturing and an upcycling project using post-production scrap fabric.