Ethical fashion : a calling for designer Melissa de Valera
Takla Makan started in 2008, when its creator Melissa de Valera settled in Pondicherry. After studying in Paris at Sorbonne in History of Arts and Indian Studies, she directed a documentary on Ikat weavers in Pochampally in Andrah Pradesh, south India. After this stay in a very rural and ancestral India, she decided to dedicate her life to preserving living textile heritage and craftsmanship in India, and therefore studied textile design at ENSCI (Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle) in Paris, with her last year as an exchange student at NID (National Institute of Design) in Ahmedabad.
For Melissa, her calling was made clearer : working with artisans of traditional textile in India, a country with a rich and diverse craftsmanship, which survival is threatened by mass consumption and rural exode. The mission she chose was to create a sustainable fashion brand, at the crossroads between Orient and the western world, and where production at all stages is following the human and ethical criterias of fair trade. From sourcing from NGOs and artisans cooperatives, using always natural and if possible organic fabrics : silk, cotton, wool and angora, harmless and sometimes natural dyes, to a human size garment production, in limited editions made by women who are thereby assured a stable and dignifying activity.
In other words, to propose a relevant alternative to disposable and short-lived fashion for conscious consumers, and embrace the philosophy of Slow Fashion with passion and commitment .
Pondicherry was the ideal place to set up the project, a crucible with a rich multicultural heritage, close to the international community of Auroville, where a spirit of creativity, ethical consciousness and human unity is implemented.
The tailoring workshop was created in 2008, and a few years later started the association with Navasarjan Textiles, a like minded workshop run by Marie-Véronique du Fontbaré, and her NGO : A way with You. Since 2014 we merged, and all the benefits of the tailoring activity go towards AWWY.
AWWY has a team of social workers who dedicate their time to helping underpriviledged people, particularly women, in the Pondicherry region.
Among these populations, the percentage of alcoholism in men is more than 80%, and women too often struggle alone to take care of their families.
AWWY runs different programs to help empower these women and their families : professional training and micro-credit, financing school fees for the children and higher studies for the older kids, health and hygiene camps…
AWWY is also very active during the frequent natural distaters in the region, like in december 2016, when the worst monsoon of the century happened…
The workshop had been turned into a shelter for people, and used to pack food rations that where distributed in flooded villages.
Melissa has also taken active commitment for the endowment fund Fonds du Cœur, created by her friend Nathalie Payraudeau, which finances a day care center for street children in Pondicherry, run by the admirable team of the indian NGO Sharana.