How did it all begin?
Premaasi Textiles is a dream come true for me. In Bombay, India where I grew up, I was surrounded by beautiful textiles, hand-made with great skill by craftspeople all over the country. I loved their feel and admired the hands that made them. I spent many Saturday afternoons browsing "handloom exhibitions" as we called them then. The clothes I wore growing up were made almost exclusively from hand-made material. I hadn't really appreciated what that meant until I'd lived and worked in the U.S. for several years.
I had thought that the idea for Premaasi was born in 2003 when I co-hosted the very well-received "100 weaves of India" exhibition with 3 friends... But as I started to write my story I realized it had been simmering in my sub-conscious long before that. Imbued with a love of hand-loomed material and blessed with a mother who continually championed the causes of the downtrodden, I recognize now that the the seed for Premaasi was planted on those Saturday afternoons spent with my mother and aunt at the handloom exhibitions in Bombay.
But in 2006 there were reports of Benares silk saris being copied by the Chinese and cheap knock-offs entering India. This rendered many silk weavers obsolete. Weavers were destitute due of lack of work and the beautiful, world-renowned Benarasi silk weave was a dying craft. I also learned that several textile craft traditions, many thousands of years old, were similarly threatened. This helped strengthen my resolve and provided more impetus for my desire the bring the beautiful handlooms of India to the U.S.A.
Traveling and Tracking
After the exhibition in 2003, I collected textile pieces, tracked down artisans and in 2018 I visited them in their homes in rural India. Over chai and chachh (tea and buttermilk) I discussed their work with them and selected pieces that I wanted to share and bring to the U.S. market. On a recent visit to a nature park in Southeastern Madagascar I saw some stunning embroidered products made by women in the village of St. Luce and we are now introducing these products to the U.S. market. Stitch Sainte Luce, as the project is called, has uplifted 1500 women in St. Luce, making the women and families economically independent. It is projects like this that keep me inspired and motivated: marrying my love for beautiful, hand-crafted textiles with a desire to support people as they aim to better their own lives. We are thrilled to be the first organization to to bring these products to the U.S. market.
I am not a designer or fashion industry professional. Inspired by beautiful, hand-crafted textiles, I chose to indulge my passion after pursuing careers in telecommunications, management consulting and non-profit management. I find working with artisans and helping to sustain their livelihoods is very rewarding, in part because the impact is tangible and immediate. What started out as a passion is evolving - to somehow better the world through more conscious and thoughtful living, at least in the narrow realm of how we choose and consume clothing.
What's in the name anyway?
Premaasi is short for "Preeti Maasi". Maasi is "mother's sister" in Hindi. The name Premaasi is inspired by my community, both young and old that warmly call me "Preeti Maasi". In a small way, Premaasi Textiles aims to make the world a better (and more beautiful) place for them,.