Fair Trade Producer Spotlight: Creative Handicrafts
- Katie Gavenda
- 05 Apr, 2022
In the origins of Mata Traders, as we first started exploring the world of fair trade production in India, Creative Handicrafts stood out as a leader in fair trade. Their status as a Guaranteed Fair Trade WFTO member and cooperative structure is a reflection of their dedication to social services. Since their start, they have been expanding social work efforts and employment opportunities for women in their community, providing numerous schooling facilities, scholarship funds, life skills training, savings and credit groups, and aid when needed during crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. Creative even developed a tiffin (lunch box) preparation and delivery subscription service, where women who can't learn to sew are able to work. Social work is at the core of their mission.
Back in the ‘50s, Spanish nun Sister Isabel Martin came to India to work as a nurse in the then-undeveloped Mahakali jungle area of Mumbai (Bombay at the time). Throughout her long life in India, she provided health services to children, started many educational initiatives, and in 1984, founded Creative Handicrafts.
What began as a few women working in borrowed school or church rooms grew to several one-room stitching centers, then to a 4-story main building and a count of 270 cooperative members, creating apparel and sewn accessories like bags, scarves, hats and home decor. Two of the original one-room centers now host the training program for women considering new membership in the cooperative as well as the day care center for young children of Creative members. All the centers have seen many upgrades throughout the years, but continue to hold a great and positive footprint in the Achanak colony slum closest to home for many of their members.
In addition to community development within and outside of their business, Creative continues to make environmental sustainability efforts as well - their main building is almost entirely run by solar power! Bigger fabric scraps are used to make bags or purses for sale in their retail shops, with smaller scraps being sold in bulk and shredded to use for cushions and mattresses. We’ve been delighted on a few trips to spot some Mata prints on little dolls and other small items!
Our designs with Creative are always playful and bold. Their partnerships with small businesses provide hand screen printed and hand woven fabrics, like ikat, and their extensive sourcing networks opens access to new textiles. Already, their fabric offerings that appear in our collections have grown to include organic cotton jersey, Tencel, satin or twill cotton, cotton denim, and even rib knit! All have been exciting canvases for us, and the finished products are items that beautifully showcase the capabilities of all of the craftspeople, cooperative members, and staff working behind the scenes at Creative.