The Kurathi Project

The Kurathi Project: Urban gypsy clothing in traditional Indian fabrics

Chennai, IndiaChennai and Tiruchirappalli , India
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The Kurathi Project is a fair trade business aiming to create a range of customized, handmade apparel in traditional Indian fabric as a way of enabling better livelihood & economic opportunities to three distinct groups - the local gypsies, individual tailors and native weavers,

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we could empower highly skilled but professionally untrained women to earn their economic freedom through a transparent,sustainable,inclusive & mutually supportive model of business that fashions the right kind of change in the apparel industry?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The Kurathi Project tries to understand and navigate through communities that have faced severe disruption and collapse in their cultures. The gypsies are a marginalized community with no scope for education or employment and who often take to rag picking and other odd jobs. The weavers and tailors are highly skilled people who are quickly losing out on their jobs to large industries and products getting replaced by mass produced machine goods.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The 'Kurathis'(gypsies)have excellent crafting skills, the traditional weavers weave beautiful yarns of natural fabric and the local tailors are masters in craftsmanship. But sadly they all are devalued & struggling. Our idea is to link the 3 groups together to create an inclusive chain of business to offer economic opportunities to each. We aim to create a range of customized apparel from textiles sourced from small units and local industries and crafted by the local gypsies & tailors. The project envisions discovering, reviving and building the communities through their powerful stories. The profits that we make will be used to grow our work and part of them are put back into the communities we work with.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

To start with, the Project offers an opportunity to the weavers by using their textiles to be used as the primary material to work on. This will be acquired from the weavers so that they can earn the income from the sales directly. These fabrics which are about 6-9yards in length are then sent to the Kurathi women for stitching. An early payment is done to ensure that a basic pay is offered for the stitching job in advance. Once the products are sold, profits from the sales will be re-directed back to the project and as a bonus pay to the women thus ensuring a double income for a single product. This hand stitched garments are then sent to local tailors who make a living from ‘fixing’ jobs for a final finish and ready for sale.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

The project is currently in an early stage, barely 3months old. We have managed so far to identify colonies in Chennai- in Kottur and Thiruvanmiyur and travelled to Trichy and established a working relationship with the 'Narikuravan Welfare Association' there. The initial research is being done and we have started creating sample skirts through self funding. The Kurathis, the tailors, the handloom resources have already started earning, as we pay them upfront even when we are creating samples. The Weavers Service Centre in Chennai, has helped us with contacts of weavers and directors of handloom co-operatives, and have assured assistance. The project showcased trial samples at a musical retreat in Pondicherry to very positive response. A Bengaluru-Cochin based social venture that supports women entrepreneurs to run their business has offered to help with the sales and online support.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Currently our operations have begun with 5 gypsy women, 2 tailors and a dozen textile suppliers in its home state of Tamil Nadu. We hope to begin with the weaving clusters within the state and eventually plan to spread to impact atleast several 100 families in various parts of the country including in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, West Bengal, Maharashtra and several other smaller villages and towns of India. In the next 3years we hope to impact: 100 kurathi women and their families, 15 to 20 tailors and a 100 weavers.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

The project hopes to raise funds through social venture support groups, grants & organizations with which a few initial collections can be launched. Once the sale is done and brings in the returns, it will be re-directed back to the project to create the next batch/collection. The project will also seek partnerships and collaborations with NGOs and national agencies.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Organic. Sustainable. Eco-friendly. Handmade. Native. In a country as diverse as India, terms such as these sound 'cliched' for some, while for many people they are still alien concepts, even if there was a time in the not-so-distant past when art, craft and natural practices were a way of life for the people in this country. We see 'sustainability' simply as a way of re-introducing people to their own ways and skills while helping to enhance the efficiency with technology. Our approach is unique in that we seek to reconnect sensibly with tradition while embracing progress responsibly.

Founding Story

In Chennai (where we are based) the Kurathis comprise of a group of women who make a living selling ‘stuff’ off the streets. These feisty, loud, vibrant women wear colorful skirts hand stitched from second hand saris and are always exquisitely adorned. Many have been inspired by these unique yet simple skirts and have reproduced them for personal use. Yet many seem to have benefited monetarily and fashionably, except the Kurathis themselves. The ingenuity and skill of the women, the fine craftsmanship of the weavers of the saris, and their incredible spirit that far surpass their broken lives were our primary inspiration to blend craft, skill, design and business to benefit these groups.


Currently, the project team is still at the formation stages. Currently led by Charulekha, a Visual Communications graduate with a diploma each in 2D Animation and 'Indian Art and Music', she has spent her formative years as a cultural evangelist working with rural artisans, folk and crafts people from all over India. The project is supported by a few eminent people in the social enterprise & product design/ marketing space alongside a few independent Indian designers. We provide an opportunity to young and talented fashion students who assist us with design inputs & fashion trends. But our greatest ideas and inputs often come from the gypsies and tailors themselves who bring in their local know how to merge with the fashion sensibilities of the urban crowd. In the future we hope to allow the project to grow organically, taking in people as the organization shapes up in its own way. The younger generation of gypsies and youngsters from weaving communities seem to be enthusiastic about technology and media and fields other than their own traditional line of survival. The project hopes to train such young and interested people from these communities in the more modern faculties and technologies so that they can blend their understanding of two different realities and bring in their unique ideas and vision into the project. The project believes in bringing in people who can offer the best of both the worlds- the inherent wisdom, innocence, practices and goodness of older cultures along with the connectivity, smart solutions and possibilities offered by newer technologies.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]

Raw Materials, Manufacturing, Consumption.

Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]

Advocate/Organizer, Consumer, Non-profit Staff.

Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]

Brands, Consumers, Designers, Policymakers, Retailers - Department Store, Sourcing Manager / Supply Chain Manager, Women, Youth.

● Intervention Focus: What are you trying to achieve / influence? [check all that apply]

Accountability, Conscious Consumerism, Gender Equality, Transparency, Other, [please specify].

Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.

Advocacy, Capacity Building, Organizing, Training.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

A Job is Not Enough: Low-Income Workers Cannot Secure Long-Term Well-Being, Consumers Aren't Motivated to Care: Neither Compelling Reasons Nor Easy Means to Change Consumption Habits, Sustainability is Not Yet in the DNA: Fast Fashion’s Current Model Disincentivizes Value-Driven Economies.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Unite More than Voice: Tap into Community Capital and Collective Resources, Transform the Chain into a Web: Link Unlikely Sectors that Open New Pathways to Sustainability.

Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?


If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?

● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?

Not applicable

Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?

Yes. At the grass root levels- by talking, explaining and leading by example.

● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?

Not yet. Collaboration however is one of the cornerstones to make this small dream a reality. It cannot be done alone.