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Anchal Project


The Anchal Project is a nonprofit social enterprise that addresses the exploitation of women around the world. Using design thinking to create employment opportunities, Anchal’s products and services support women through empowerment. With a mission to address the exploitation of women, Anchal artisans produce one-of-a-kind pieces through design training and educational workshops, gaining health benefits, and financial security, to help support themselves and their families, through safe and dignified employment.


Anchal’s artisans come from the commercial sex trade in India. Stigmatized and marginalized by society, many were forced into the sex trade due to poverty, lack of education, limited skills and extreme gender inequality. Anchal believes investing in a female commercial sex worker, especially ones with children, is an opportunity to transform an entire families and in turn, society.


By employing design thinking, Anchal creates innovative and strategic solutions that tackle social inequality, and refresh traditional business practices. Defining design thinking as a creative approach to problem solving, Anchal believes that solutions are developed through observation, collaboration, experimentation and evaluation, and that interdisciplinary design collaborations, can be a catalyst for positive social change.


The Anchal Project translates the Indian tradition of kantha quilts into modern, contemporary home products and women’s accessories. Kantha is a traditional India embroidery technique of joining multiple layers of vintage saris with a simple running stitch. The usual clash of colors and prints found in Indian kantha, are made more harmonious through the carefully curated color selection of black, gray, indigo, teal, purple and fuchsia. Producing an unprecedented identity to Anchal’s products, each piece integrates the process of overdye, a process with deep roots in the region of Rajasthan, India.  Overdying transformation the vintage saris into vibrant unified colorations by using dyes like indigo, which leave just a trace of the original pattern showing through.


The collection comprises small neck ties, bandanas, scarves, wraps and throws of all kinds for shawls and beds, as well as a variety of bags, pouches, clutches and carry on’s. Some vibrant and brightly patterned, but with a harmony rarely found in Indian kantha’s, some unified further through the use of contrasting kantha stitching. Stitching appears in the traditional narrow rows, as well as in variations of stripes, lines, outlines and checks. Many items are sensitively overdyed in delicate and harmonious tones. Kantha takes patience, dedication and practice, with a standard throw quilt taking an average of two weeks to stitch.


The word Anchal means the decorative edge of a sari used to provide comfort and protection to loved ones, as well as shelter. A fitting choice of name given that the products produced by Anchal are made from vintage sari’s, while the project itself helps provide shelter, as well as comfort and protection for this in it. The project was inspired by a Rhode Island School of Design graduate seminar that explored design in the developing world. After a trip to India to see the extreme oppression faced by women face in the red light district, they started the Ancha Project with $400, and a single sewing machine. Officially gaining 501(c) non-profit status in the US in 2010, Anchal now have 77 artisans, 5 project managers, and have trained 153 women in Ajmer, India through there Stitch x Stich training program.


Website: http://anchalproject.org

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