Ethical fashion company Woven Riches is my attempt at bringing … – Belfast Telegraph
The hope of bringing a little bit of India to Belfast has inspired the establishment of an exciting new ethical fashion brand.
other-of-two Namita Khanna has wanted to showcase the skill of artisans from her home country along with its beautiful vibrant colours since moving here from India 30 years ago. She finally realised her dream in 2018 when she launched her fashion and homeware brand Woven Riches.
Her business was just getting off the ground when Covid-19 hit in 2020 but since moving out of the pandemic, Namita (50) has continued to slowly build her brand which is strongly rooted in the ethics of the slow fashion movement.
Slow fashion is the opposite of fast fashion and advocates clothing manufactured in respect of people. It uses artisans and eco-friendly materials with the aim of preserving the crafts and the environment.
Daughter Reea helps her mum Namita with Woven Riches
Namita says: “I’m not perfect but morals and ethics and empathy are important to me. There are so many artisans in India who never get any recognition for their skills.
“Over the years I have worked in my husband’s shop but it isn’t what I choose to do. I have always been designing things in my head and talking to people in India about products and design.
“I finally decided to start in a small way in 2018 as I didn’t have the funds to take a huge risk, so I’ve grown it gradually since then.
“I am also passionate about female empowerment and I always wanted to work with some of the women back home but in an ethical way that ensured they had fair hours and fair pay and their skills were being appreciated.
“I have two groups I work with, one in Delhi of five girls who produce my items and another team of five in Jaipur who do my block printing.
“I am very aware of how workers in India are exploited in fashion sweat shops as I have seen it with my own eyes. Thankfully things are improving now but wages are still very low. For me it is important to operate ethically and consciously with integrity.
One of the ethically-made items available from Woven Riches
“It gives these lovely ladies some income while allowing them to be self-sufficient and independent too.
“So we don’t make fast fashion pieces or go by trend, just timeless and ageless products with a soul and story to each of them.”
Although a frequent visitor to India, especially since setting up her business, Namita has long settled into life in Northern Ireland.
It was love that led her to move to Belfast in 1992.
Her husband Sanjay is Indian and was born here.
Namita met him during his frequent trips back home to India and the couple fell in love and married.
Since moving here, she has worked in her husband’s dry-cleaning business. Sanjay is well-known in Belfast for his city centre shop, Mint Dry Cleaning.
The couple have two children, Jay (20) who works with PWC and their daughter Reea (25), a trainee doctor in Liverpool who also helps Namita with her new business.
Namita’s homeware is vibrant and colourful
As well as giving something back to her home country, Namita also wanted to showcase India’s beautiful vibrant colours through her products.
She says: “It wasn’t until I had left India that my eyes opened to the beauty I had been immersed in, yet completely oblivious to. I couldn’t stop visualising the vivid colours of home. People here tend to shy away from colour and I really wanted to bring these vibrant colours of home into my designs.”
Woven Riches not only provides for artisans in India but working with a friend back home, Namita has set up her own charity, the Nagpal Foundation, to help orphaned children living on the streets of Delhi.
She explains: “A lot of kids were left orphaned by the Covid-19 pandemic. Me and a friend in India provide them with a hot meal twice a week. I am using some of the profits from Woven Riches to pay for the food while my friend cooks it in her own kitchen and takes it to the children every Tuesday and Saturday.
“We started with around 50-60 children and now there are between 100 to 150 each day and we are not even making a dent. These children are living in the streets and they have no life, even food is difficult for them to get.
“As I grow my business I don’t know where this charity will take me but I really feel a sense of purpose about it and would eventually like to have a bigger kitchen.”
Namita now has her own website and also sells Woven Riches online through Etsy, Shopify and Not on the High Street. She has also recently started bringing her products to local slow fashion markets and events across Northern Ireland.
She adds: “It is lovely to be finally doing something I have dreamed about for so long. The feedback I have got from events in Northern Ireland has been so positive and that encourages me. Woven Riches is my humble attempt to bring India a little closer to Belfast and beyond.”
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