Colleen Clines wants to solve two problems:
- The exploitation of women around the world.
- The increasing number of textiles ending up in landfills.
Her solution is Anchal Project – a nonprofit dedicated to empowering women through employment in design and textile production. The result has been hundreds of jobs for women in India, many of whom have become the breadwinner of their household. Furthermore, its products have the low environmental impact the textile industry so desperately needs.
Two problems, one solution.
Forgetting unethical labor practices and refusing to add to mounting landfills, Anchal stands out in an industry that’s become the second largest polluter on the planet (second only to the oil industry). It’s replaced pollutants with organics and machines with people, bringing life back to an otherwise industrialized system.
Humanizing the Industrial
In an industry dominated by corporate giants, the textile and apparel industry have made “fast fashion” the norm. Industrialization has made clothing production as monotonous and mechanical as a car assembly line, producing a system that is far less human and far more wasteful. Anchal is flipping the trend on its head, even if its clothing accounts for a slender piece of the 80 billion new clothing items made each year.
Its stitch by stitch mentality regularly employs over 77 artisans and 5 project assistants, providing an opportunity for women to do skilled work. Such work is also an opportunity for women to overcome the societal inequalities in Indian society, giving them a chance to provide for their children and families.
Through an improved quality of life comes a quality product. Time and attention to every detail go into every one of Anchal’s bags, scarves and quilts. The final product isn’t what will be unloaded by the dozens on store shelves. Instead, it’s made with a purpose and a passion.
The idea of Anchal came about when co-founders, Clines and Devon Miller, took a trip to India as graduate students at the Rhode Island School of Design. Seeing the oppression of women spurred a couple thoughts:
- These women were worth fighting for.
- There’s potential to make a difference through design.
Since those days and the official formation of Anchal Project in 2009, the idea of using design as a medium for social innovation has become much more than a thought. The numbers are there to prove it.
- Anchal has trained and employed over 150 women.
- 70% of artisans are now considered the primary breadwinner of the family.
- 65% have bought their first homes since joining the program.
- 100% are investing in their children’s education.
- 98% are able to afford healthy food options for themselves and family.
It’s clear that the lives of these women have been impacted in a positive fashion. Likewise, the fashion the women are producing is positively impacting the planet. The two work hand in hand and have made Anchal a powerful force for social and environmental change.
Bringing it Back to Louisville
While Anchal has taken up residence in India, its home has always been in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s where the nonprofit took shape and is headquartered to this day. But now, it’s mission to produce eco-friendly textiles is spreading to the local community.
dyeSCAPE another venture by the team at Anchal, was established in 2014 with the goal of cultivating dye plants on previously vacant properties. It launched with a boost from a local competition (Lots of Possibility) that awarded $15,000 to the project. The plants grown in these gardens provide natural colors for textile production.
As the project continues to expand, it hopes to provide careers for marginalized women in the Louisville community, similar to what Anchal already does in India. It continues to serve as a center for education on sustainable textile practices and a major contributor the local economy.
From Louisville to India, the continued expansion of dyeSCAPE and Anchal is helping provide a platform for change: Change in the way we produce our clothing, change in the lives of underprivileged women, and change in the way we turn problems into a solution.