Interview with Gracie Sutton

 Previous Fashion and Textiles Intern at Sambhali Trust

Fashion Correspondent for ORA Ethical Fashion

 

How did you become interested in fair trade fashion and women’s empowerment?

I first became interested in fair trade fashion after backpacking and traveling south east Asia and India in 2013, I saw the direct correlation between the developing world and the western world and the impact our purchases had on others. It was also the same year the Rana Plaza incident took place and I felt it was an issue as a fashion designer and consumer I could no longer ignore, I wanted to be part of a movement for change.  I've always been passionate about Human rights but since my first visit to india, working for another NGO I became especially interested in women's rights and empowerment. Again I saw first hand and experienced the discrimination towards women, I realised just how fortunate I am in the UK and feel passionate that women every where should have equality, safety, education and work.

 

What does the slow fashion movement mean to you…

Slow fashion means a number of things for me; it means knowing and understanding your source, appreciating artisans work, the time it's taken to produce and the skill involved. It's about recognising the people that make our clothes and not mass produced fast fashion. Slow fashion again for me is about purchasing clothes that will last a long time, are classical, stylish and well made. Lastly it's also about caring for our environment whilst producing products, so that each garment has as little impact on the world as possible.

 

How has your experience at Sambhali shaped or changed your views around this?

I think if anything Sambhali has only made my beliefs and views around this stronger, because I now truly identify with where our clothes are coming from. I see the time, attention and detail that each employee puts into her work and I see the impact that it has on the women not only financially but their wellbeing too.

 

How do you think the vocational skills being taught are improving the lives of the women at Sambhali Trust?

By providing the women lessons in sewing at Sambhali, the women have not only gained a skill but a livelihood. They are able to provide for their families, which in the long term will generate a better future for their children. They have also gained self confidence and self esteem, they are so proud of their work and take pride in each piece they create.

 

Do you think it is possible for these women to become eventually become completely financially independent?

I really hope that they can all eventually become completely independent and perhaps employ even more women. However for even the current Sambhali sewing employees their future and finances depend heavily on clients such as Ora and customers to buy their products, without this work they would have no income.

How do you see the future for women in India?

I find this a hard question to answer and one I think about myself constantly, I really hope that in the near future women will unite and battle against their patriarchal society and that they can determine their own futures. I think they still have a way to go especially in states such as Rajasthan, although I do feel with many organisations such as Sambhali educating women about their rights that things will inevitably get better even if the process is slow. I believe the next step however for real progress, would be to educate the men more about women's equality.