This month with the help of the Rotary Club of Maheshwar and Chetanya Sewa Sansthan, we organized a Jhoole fashion show. The goal of this project was to allow Jhoole seamstresses, weavers and embroiderers a platform to show off their skills and creativity. All of the designs were created by them without any input from Jhoole designers. Vandana Kewat, a Jhoole embroiderer, said that she had never dreamed that she would have the chance to participate in a fashion show, all the girls around her nodded in agreement. In this rural area, people often think that fashion exists in a distant cosmopolitan world of wealth and glamour. The Jhoole women used to see their skills as simple folk art, but they are starting to appreciate that they can use their amazing traditional techniques in modern and innovative ways. The participants designed garments in Indian, “western” and hybrid styles; they took inspiration from donated fashion magazines and Fashion TV. Those too timid to wear their own creations, sewed dresses for their daughters to wear. I was pleased and surprised by the fact that although this is a fairly conservative society, no one raised any opposition. Everyone who participated was excited to take part and show off their unique garments.
A group from the Rock Valley College Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) came to Maheshwar for eleven days to learn about Jhoole’s work, get experience in running a social enterprise on the ground, and to help us plan to maximize our positive effect on this community. They participated in the fashion show by acting as judges and choosing 5 finalists. The audience then voted for their favorite dresses and two women tied in first place.
Now that the show is over, Jhoole weavers, seamstresses and embroiderers are more confident, hard-working and enthusiastic than ever. Our work is not just about helping women to gain economic independence… it is about empowering them through promoting creativity and camaraderie. Almost all of our workers are traditional housewives who used to work on garments alone from their homes in order to pass the time between their chores. Since they have started working with Jhoole they have had the chance to unite and learn from one another. They share original stitches and show off various designs that they have created. They now have a platform that fosters creativity and builds community and their gratefulness makes our work incredibly rewarding!