Designer Katie Schmidt: My mission in life is to improve the world I live in, and because of my love for design, I have chosen to do this through fashion. I create all the patterns, samples and technical drawings by hand. My heart and soul go into every piece. I am fascinated by the ancient Indian artisanal techniques of dyeing and weaving.
Passion Lilie is a fair trade & eco-friendly apparel brand with a mission to empower artisans across the world by creating dignified employment opportunities. We believe that these positive job opportunities lead to sustainable societies and a better world.
Fair trade is not charity. It is a trade-based movement that focuses on creating long-term relationships based on transparency, trust and respect. We are committed to providing fair wages and working with organizations that provide safe and healthy working conditions, low cost or free on the job training, time off for education, loans and financial advising, opportunities for health care and most importantly a positive and uplifting working environment.
We are dedicated to preserving the environment through the use of natural (plant or vegetable based) dyes and energy, waste and water reduction in the production process. Fabrics are washed by hand in the local waterways and dried in the sun and leftover scraps are used for accessories and handicrafts.
About half of Passion Lilie’s scarves and tote bags are produced at a block printing unit in the state of Andhra Pradesh (India), and they are printed through the art of Kalamkari, which uses natural plant or vegetable based dyes.
Hand block printing is a centuries old Indian art form that utilizes a hand carved teak wood block that is dipped in dye and stamped by hand onto cotton or silk. The design for the block is usually a traditional Indian motif. The motif is traced onto a block by a master craftsman who then chips away at the block to create a stamp.
“Unless we pay fair wages it is not possible for the artisans to sustain and support their families.”
The manager of the block printing unit, Padmini
The block printing workshop started in 1969 by a hand loom weaver and now his two sons have taken over. Both brothers are not only dedicated and extremely knowledgeable on this art form, but they are also good, trustworthy people who have created an amazing and uplifting working environment.
The workshop regularly employ about 10 women and men from a variety of religious backgrounds: Muslim, Christian and Hindu. Despite the religious differences, they all work in peace together. Some artisans have been with the workshop for as long as 35 years.
Thanks to the work that this workshop has provided, the artisans are living above poverty, but many of their neighbors in the small village are struggling and in poverty. Not only does the workshop pay fair wages that are above the national minimum average and above what other workshops are paying, but they also offer many benefits.
* One new saree (typical Indian dress) with petticoats per year
* Health care- one woman needed cataract surgery & the workshop helped pay for it
* Payment into a retirement fund
* Safe and clean working conditions
* Pay advancements or loans if needed
* Double pay if they choose to work overtime
* Time off for personal or religious needs
* Land and housing assistance for those who are in need. The owners of the workshop gifted some of their father’s land and 20,000 INR (about $330) for doors and windows to four different faithful workers who had been woking for them for 20+ years. Government assistance was available for additional building materials such as toilets and electricity
The other half of Passion Lilie’s scarves are block printed in Jaipur by a fair trade organization that employs about 10 highly skilled block printers. These men receive an above average salary, paid sick and holiday leave, assistance in obtaining health insurance and loans if needed.
The block printing unit where the scarves are printed was started by Abdul’s father in 1980 as a carpet business. Abdul took over the business in 1990 and began working with block printers. Abdul is a smart man who pays attention to industry trends while ensuring that his employs receive the best care possible. Katie works closely with Abdul in development of new designs. Abdul makes sure that his workers receive adequate time off for the many holidays and festivals in India and he even gives them a small bonus or gift during the main holidays.
Passion Lilie also uses many handwoven and ikat dyed fabrics that are purchased from a family of handloom weavers that live in a village outside of Hyderabad in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The family owns three small houses, which act as weaving and dyeing units. They employ 5-10 workers at a time depending on the demand at an above average salary. Some of the workers are illiterate and some our educated, but all are from the local village.
Passion Lilie is the first and only foreign company this family works with. The family is more than thrilled to have the regular work that Passion Lilie provides. Katie is continually working with them to improve their fair trade practices. For example, based on Katie’s advice, they made it a priority to make sure all workers wear gloves while dyeing to protect their skin. In addition, during each visit, Katie provides design assistance in developing new patterns.
Tthe ancient ikat dyeing process. Ikat, meaning “to tie” or “to bind” in Indonesian, involves applying bindings, which resist dye penetration, to the threads in the desired pattern, the threads are then dyed, the bindings are removed and finally the threads are woven into fabric. The patterns can be extremely intricate depending on the number of colors and bindings that are used. During ancient times, because its creation was so time consuming, ikat dyeing was often a status symbol of wealth and power.
All of Passion Lilie's apparel production is done in Bangalore by a fair trade certified organization that employs about 10-15 women from low- income communities. These women receive free on the job training, an above average salary, 24 days of sick leave and 11 government paid holidays, assistance in obtaining health insurance and financial advising.