What Is Artisanal Clothing - Is It Sustainable?

What Is Artisanal Clothing - Is It Sustainable?

As an artisanal brand, we are often asked "what exactly is artisanal clothing" and what makes it sustainable?

We're here to answer your questions. In a world increasingly conscious of its environmental footprint and the value of cultural heritage; artisanal clothing stands out as a testament of sustainability and ethical production rooted in local community and culture with a rich it history 

The conversation of sustainability in fashion may be a recent trend; but the practise is age-old. Native artisanal communities have been engaging in methods of production that are regenerative; that bring together communities and that are not detrimental to the environment.

How do we define artisanal clothing?

Does artisanal clothing simply mean handmade? Yes and No. While being handmade is an important component of artisanal clothings it is not the only criteria for a piece of clothing to be artisanal.

Whether determining if a something is artisanal ask yourself the following questions?

a. Is it handmade; yes; but is it local and community-based?

Most things in fashion are handmade, what distinguishes artisanal clothing from handmade pieces is that it is local and communal; it is deeply embedded in the native culture and will often support and help local eco-systems. 

The clothing will use materials that are natively available such as Kala Cotton in Gujarat, Hemp In Uttarakhand, Camel Wool In Kutch; the clothing has a direct connection to the local communities and culture. 

b. What are the roots of the art-form & history behind it?

To explain this well let's look at the folk painting art form of Warli; which was used in our W'aari collection. 

The art-form was initially used to during wedding to decorate the lagnachauk; the motifs come from the lives of the warli tribe - their religious beliefs, agricultural practises and family life. The paintings often have fable like moral-lined stories behind it. It has cultural significance that is passed down from generation to generation. 

To Give A Few Hallmarks Of Artisanal Clothings

Craftsmanship: Each piece is created with care, often utilizing techniques passed down through generations.
Sustainability: Use of locally sourced, natural materials and minimal waste production processes.
Ethical Production: Fair wages and working conditions for artisans, promoting social equity.
Cultural Preservation: Supports the preservation and celebration of traditional crafts and techniques.

What are a few advantages of purchasing or producing artisanal clothing

Piece Of Art 

Artisanal clothing are unique and one of a kind; it in interconnected with the local culture and communities, so when you buy an artisanal piece you are literally wearing a piece of art with a story to tell. 

Preserving Disappearing Artforms 

It's unfortunate, but most artisans need work and support to keep these traditions alive, without demands from brands and customers they are forced into other occupations to sustain their families. When you purchase or as a brand produce with artisans you are preserving a culture and an ancestral knowledge. 

Making Artisanal Lifestyle Viable for Future Generations 

We've worked with artisans across India, and they all tell struggle to get their children interested in craftsmanship; younger generations have seen their parents struggle and do not think of "being an artisan" as an apsirational or lucrative profession. If demand for artisanal clothing increased, if their savoir-faire was appreciated; these professions will once again appeal to the future generations and remain alive. 

Building Rural Communities & Eco-systems 

Above all; we are creating jobs for rural communities which are often cut-off or don't offer the same opportunities as cities. We are preserving craft-forms that develop eco-systems; not destroy them. It's a win-win for everyone. Most techniques have a low-carbon footprint; in the age of where a climate crisis is looming over our heads; artisanal producing provides a fair, sustainable alternative to mass production. 

Artisan Techniques & Fabrics We Have Explored


We collaborated with two young female artists from the Warli tribe to create our W'aari collection. They created two motifs for us inspired by sorority exclusively for this collection. 

Aari Embroidery 

Aari embroidery uses a hook needle known as "ari" to create chain embroidery on fabrics; it can also be used to add intricate details such as sequences, beads and other embellishments to the clothes.

Block Print

Block prints use craved wooden blocks/stamps to create intricate patterns on a cloth, we've extensively used ajrakh in our collections which use natural dyes to create a myraid of geometric patterns in signature colours representing nature - red, beige, black, blue, yellow and green. 

Khadi Cotton 

Khadi has a rich history. It was employed as a means of self-sufficiency against the British rule during India's freedom struggle. A part of our collection is made from Khadi Cotton which is handspun & handwoven using a charkha and handloom!

Crochet & Knitting 

Our knitwear is handspun and handwoven; but it also uses native materials such as himachali wool & eri silks found in the Himalayan States in India. 

Where are the artisans located & how did you find them?

Well, our founder is Indian; she grew up witnessing the beauty and traditions of her homeland. She spent almost a year before Buno Behen was formed looking for artisan clusters in villages across India. Every state in India is known for a particular craft and artisans are often located in remote villages. Some work with NGOs; some work Independently. While internet can be a good starting point. On ground connections are more important when working with artisan collectives. We work with a cluster and spend time knowing the artisans collectives we work with. 

I am a Brand, I would love to work with artisans, can you help?

Of course! Our co-design programme is created specially for small brands in the West to collaborate with artisan collectives in India. We believe in collaboration over competition and our above all our mission - to provide dignified work and exposure to female artisan collectives in India. Whether it's through our own collection or as craft-connectors for other brands. The medium doesn't matter; the mission does!

To Conclude

I hope we answered most of your questions; feel free to get in touch with us to know more about our collections, our artisan network or simply to chat! We love hearing from you! 

I hope this encourages you to do you own research and deep dive in to the wonderful world of crafts and artisan clothing!

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