Fighting the Deadlines of Fashion

Hand dyed fabrics drying in the sun.

Fashion is a fast paced, cut throat world that is all about timing. You can have a beautiful product, but if it is not on the market in time, in season and in trend, you may as well forget about making any sales. And no matter what type of business you are running, the bottom line is we all need money to keep the wheels turning.

On the other hand, the artisans we work with in India run on a completely different clock than the Western fashion world. They do also like money and need money to live, but they face numerous challenges that may prevent them from making tomorrow’s deadline.

These are some of those challenges that Passion Lilie and our artisans in India face:

  1. Weather: Our production process depends heavily on good weather. Our fabrics are washed in the river and hung to dry in the sun, so during monsoon season- which is about 6 months out of the year- it is not possible to produce block printed fabrics. Also, during monsoon season India faces rolling blackouts, and without electricity our artisans can’t operate the sewing machines. Hand dyed fabrics drying in the sun.
  2. Festivals: India’s calendar is filled with festivals that are based on religion, culture and tradition. Taking away those festivals would strip India of its identity. Many times our production has been delayed, because there was a festival that forced production to stop for several days.                                                                                                               An Indian wedding. 
  3. Money: Many of the artisans we work with don’t even have enough money to invest in extra inventory, so when Passion Lilie places large orders, often times we have to wait almost a week for our wire transfer to be received before production can begin.
  4. Cultural Differences: Indians aim to please. When working with one of our artisans I asked him if he could create a peach color with the vegetable dyes. He said, yes of course. One week behind deadline and after 3 attempts, I realized that he could not create the color I wanted. He never told me he couldn’t because Indians do not like to say no, but in this case I needed the no, so we could move on with production and use a different color.
  5. India Time: Lastly, in the United States when we say we want something by a specific date, we mean this date is the last possible day to deliver that something. In India that specific date is really just a suggested date, and one week later is no problem… Right?!

I write this blog post with hopes that the fashion world will understand that if fair trade clothing companies don’t always meet their deadlines or they can’t keep the most popular items in stock, it is not because they are inefficient or mismanaged, but because we are supporting our artisans in India regardless of the challenges that I just mentioned. We make a conscious choice to produce in India, not because it is easier or cheaper, but because we want to support these artisans with fair wages and job security. We fight the fight with them. We believe that a healthy, sustainable and enjoyable life is more important than surviving the deadlines of the fashion world.

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