Take three circles one for branding and design, the second for ethical business and fair trade, and the last one for handloom cooperatives in India. Overlap the three circles and what you get is Kara Weaves of Kerala.
Founded in 2007 by the mother and daughter team Indu Menon, a social anthropologist, and graphic designer Chitra Gopalakrishna, Kara Weaves showcases beautiful home textiles. The products are made with the pair’s favorite textile thorthu, a soft piece of cotton cloth that’s ubiquitous in the state of Kerala. Thorthu is hand-woven via traditional wooden looms; the fabric is composed of twin cotton fibers woven into a rectangular cloth that is soft and has high absorbency. From spinning the cotton into yarn, dyeing it, to weaving and sewing the pieces together, all items are handmade. Products include a wide variety of delicate bed, table, and bathroom linens.
The idea of Kara Weaves came about when Indu learned that a group of weavers she had interviewed for a book she wrote in the 1980s were looking for other types of work because there was little financial stability in weaving. When mother and daughter began a conversation about the demise of these legendary weavers, they began to brainstorm how they could combine their existing skills in design and anthropology to preserve the ancient tradition of throthu. Ultimately, what they created was a collaborative enterprise between the artisans, the marketplace and fair trade practices.
As the “middlewomen” they connected the artisans with the market, buying the products at premium prices from the weaving coops, and marketing and finding the appropriate venues to sell the products. Early on in the venture, the team tweaked the designs by ridding the blue cast in the fabric and turning it into a pure, rich white, and tightening the weave
First time customers, which were acquired the old-fashioned way of hoofing it as door-to-door salespersons, were hotels—including the Casino Group of Hotels (rebranded as CGH Earth). In spite of the great press the company received from traditional media and bloggers and carried by name-brand retailers such as Anthropologie (stores and online), Fab.com, retailers across the US and internationally, Kara Weave’s biggest challenge has been overcoming geography. “Our location is a deterrent that keeps many small businesses from contacting us. We would love to tell them that we are very flexible to work with and work hard to make sure their needs are accurately met,” said Chitra
Plans for the future include a shake up in their business model. “We wish to move on from retail to wholesale, which we felt, was more of a sustainable model for us as well as for the weavers whose craft we are attempting to revive. As for our target industry we are currently into home textiles. Our aim is to target baby products industry and sports industry through sponsorship and direct sales.”
On August 16-19, potential buyers can stop by Kara Weaves booth at Pier 94 at Artisan Resource®, a section of NY Now®. On display will be new weaves and colors in their new collection of home textiles and accessories.
To learn more about Kara Weaves, please visit www.karaweaves.com.