Funky Kalakar is a handmade shoe and accessory brand that was founded upon the search for new styles in India. Produced from natural and recyclable materials, continue reading to learn more about their story, or view their selection of handmade items.
What drove you to start your business?
I always aspired to have a business of my own where I can create something that makes a difference or creates an impact on the community associated with it. With this mindset, I explored India to find indigenous art forms that have lost their value in the current world of fast fashion. During the trip, I met with artisans and realized that, even though they are highly skilled, they were finding it difficult to make their ends meet. When inquired, I realized that they were not being paid fairly for their hard work and skills so producers could cut costs.
So, we launched our first collection of shoes in 2017. We worked with artisans from a remote village in Gujarat, India for the fabrics, and partner with cobblers for the production. Because the current generation prefers to buy new shoes over repairing old ones, these cobblers were finding it difficult to make a decent living.
We were also driven to create a new life for the tires filling our landfills. We devised a way to upcycle these discarded tires into the soles of our shoes.
Who are your employees or your artisans?
Our artisans are spread across India. Our fabrics are made by a family in Gujarat who has been practicing the art of “Ajrakh” style of printing since 5 generations. Our cotton is handloomed by weavers in Kutch. The shoes are assembled by cobblers in Mumbai. Our bags are made by generations-old collective in Maharashtra.
What do they mean to you?
Our artisans are the soul of our brand.
What made you decide to start producing ethically?
While traveling in 2016, I found that most of our current artisans were not paid fairly. We are giving them a way to make a fair, sustainable income. When I started, I envisioned to create a business where its people—the artisans, employees, customers, and suppliers—are valued the most. What other way than to engage with everyone in the most ethical and transparent way?
What impact has your business had on your community?
Funky Kalakar strives to impact not just one community, but society in general.
At one end, we work with the artisans and provide them with fair wage and safe work. On the other end we engage heavily in upcycling and recycling processes. In addition to using tires in our production, we encourage customers to return their products for recycling. In last 2 years, we have upcycled more than 1000 KG of discarded tires.
What was the most difficult part of starting and running your business?
Running a sustainable brand comes with its own additional set of challenges. Because we are committed to sustainable and vegan production, we have found it difficult to find ethical and accessible materials. However, with new production innovations, we've found our options increasing.
What has been the most rewarding outcome of your business?
The most rewarding part has been keenness of the artisans to continue working with us and introducing us to other artisans. Apart from that, praises and feedback from our customers on the quality and craftmanship of our products always motivates us.
What is your companies’ mission?
We intend to make sustainable fashion mainstream in US, UK and India in next three years. To achieve that, we are going to educate more and more consumers about the benefits that slow fashion has on them and the environment.
We will also be launching our clothing line by end of 2020 or early 2021. After that, we intend to to make ethical children's clothes and accessories, this making Funky Kalakar a complete sustainable lifestyle brand for everyone.