The Katran Upcycling Model
This blog post was written by Liluye Staff Writer, Katie Hutchinson, who is a driven and compassionate environmentalist and humanitarian.
Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to an incredible individual. Her name is Swati Soharia, and she is the founder, creator, lead innovator of Katran, and a Liluye partner. What I found is that Swati is not only a genuine human who embodies all aspects of a powerful change agent, but her style, company, and look is truly unique.
A few years back, once Swati graduated from the National Institute of Fashion Technology in New Delhi, her passions for fashion, sustainability, and female empowerment organically led to the creation of this one-of-a-kind social enterprise. Her belief in frugal design and innovative techniques led her to experimenting early on. She shared that after her exposure to the wasteful nature and exploitative practices of modern fashion industries, she worked towards raising awareness about the dangers of fast fashion and promoting more responsible consumer behavior in fashion retail. She quickly realized how fashion, upcycling, and empowering women could create a positive change in the market. From the moment the idea entered her mind, she knew her calling.
Katran operates by collecting the disposed fabrics and materials from textile industries that are left behind on shop floors and transforming them into something magical by the many skilled women she recruits, trains, and employs throughout India.
This form of upcycling is a newer practice. And for Swati, something that she forced herself to commit to when she spent an entire year finding ways to upcycle, changing her mindset on fashion fabrication. Soon, her upcycling style brought in customers, which then led to her needing to hire tailors.
The women she trains and employs come from marginalized communities to upcycle waste fabric into handcrafted, one-of-a-kind accessories. Swati emphasized that she works to make sure these women are empowered, given a voice, taught a trade, and that they have the ability to make a life for themselves. India, a country with so many different languages and cultures depending on which part of the country you’re in, are all celebrated at Katran. Women from all backgrounds are able to find a way to incorporate their home, culture, and lives into the pieces they make. While Swati mentions that the language barriers are difficult to work around, she calls it a beautiful challenge. One she’s most grateful to participate in.
One of the projects closest to Swati’s heart is the one with the Delhi Prison where lately she has been working with the women there. Here, like other places she trains, she has created numerous workshops to help women develop skills, such as sewing, designing, stitching, etc. She has found with this particular group of women it has been especially rewarding helping them find their voices. They come from backgrounds and situations that keep them from speaking out, and now they feel empowered and happy to know how to provide and care for themselves. Swati said that helping these women find their voices has been a very challenging, but also very rewarding experience.
During our conversation, Swati emphasized one important component that I believe sets her NGO apart from others. She explained to me how most social enterprises that employ or train marginalized women focus on their distress. However, she doesn’t believe in that; she believes in empowering women to not feel like that. They are not less than anyone else. They have the power in them. They should be empowered and able to compete within the fashion industry. The quality of their products is something they focus on, and she only tasks women with projects when she feels they are ready to complete orders.
Swati realized early on, as her company continued to grow, that collaboration was key, and to make a bigger impact. It’s impossible, Swati stated, for one organization to do everything in one go; on its own. She works with all three sectors (fashion, sustainability, and female empowerment), as well as other non-profit organizations and NGOs that help house, feed, and give the women the support they need. She also works with corporations that place orders and help her with her mission. On top of that, she receives government and army support, too.
Currently, Katran has 50 to 100 women recruited; ready for training. Another 200 are working on developing and mastering skills, and another 800 to 1,000 women Swati has given the seal of approval to as trained artisans that are ready to complete orders.
She also plans to make Katran global soon by setting up a PayPal account that can accommodate numerous currencies so that she can ship to every corner of the world.
Katran’s merchandise can be found on their website and Instagram. Be sure to check out what Katran has to offer and share with friends and family to directly impact her talented artisans.
To learn more about upcycling and Swati’s work in India with Katran:
Is trashion the future? (livemint.com)
For more information about Liluye or to inquire about becoming a partner, please visit: www.liluye.org/contact.