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MarketPlace: Handwork of India 

 Indian Fashion Handcrafts

By Pauline Weston Thomas for

Traditional Handcrafted Fair-trade Fashion Goods from India

Earlier this year Celina Connor wrote to tell me about MarketPlace and Handwork of India.

MarketPlace: Handwork of India is a non profit organization that provides fair trade employment to women in India by selling their handmade apparel and interiors within the United States.  MarketPlace is an incredible organization with an extraordinary mission and their current theme is 'Women designing fashions, Redesigning destinies'.  They also recently hosted a fashion show at the Chicago Cultural Centre's 'Fair Trade: Dignity by Design' which was a presentation in honour of World Fair Trade Day on May 14th and some of the garment images are shown on this page.  An article about the work of Marketplace is also reprinted below.


Jacket from Jacket from

All images and details courtesy of


Marketplace Reprinted Article

Shel Mae Reinwald Manager of San Francisco Global Exchange Fair Trade Store wrote the article reprinted below.

Fair Trade Spotlight: Marketplace of India

Non-profit empowers low-income women through dignity, not charity.
In an age of corporate irresponsibility, more and more consumers are asking questions about the origins of the products they buy.  An awareness movement that began with organic food now encompasses everything from clothing to cars, as people demand products that are socially responsible and environmentally sustainable.

Marketplace of India - an apparel and home textile company started in 1980 to employ and empower poor women in Bombay - is among the enterprises meeting that demand.  Beginning with three women whose marketable skills were limited to hand stitching, Marketplace has grown to include multiple cooperatives employing hundreds of women artisans.

Women around the globe bear the brunt of responsibility for the health, education and general welfare of their families.  Yet culture and tradition have denied women the rights and freedom to have the economic power to meet those responsibilities.  Women often are expected to accept decisions made for them by their husbands and parents, while being forced to surrender control of their finances and thus jeopardize the welfare of their children.

Marketplace of India is changing that.

Cotton dress from

Jacket from

All images and details courtesy of

Self Improvement and Social Programs

The women of Marketplace are empowered to believe in themselves, to speak out and express their wishes, and to learn new skills.  Programs that have been developed and managed by the artisans themselves include 'The Artisans Speak,' which lets the women decide on a theme for each Marketplace catalog; 'Social Action,' in which the women decide on a social problem in their community that they wish to change (such as alcoholism or lack of women’s health programs); and 'The Children’s Education Fund,' which is run by older children for the benefit of the younger ones and includes such programs as summer camps and libraries.

Wrap garment for sale at marketplace Wrap garment and skirt for sale from marketplace.

All images and details courtesy of

The Power of Independence

As wage earners, Marketplace artisans gain the confidence to take part in the decision-making processes of their families, as well as being an integral part of an artisan group.  Marketplace’s goals include involving the artisans directly in every aspect of business - from designing, managing and producing products, to tagging and packing boxes to ship to the US.

Through these processes the artisans learn to take control and manage their finances.  And since Marketplace’s products are primarily hand stitched, the women can take their work home, enabling them to look after their families while they earn an income.

Marketplace’s products are primarily hand stitched - artisans at work.

Image of Indian artisan workers stitching good fro Marketplace is courtesy of


Change for the Better

Over the years, Marketplace has initiated amazing quality of life improvements for many people. Life expectancy for Marketplace artisans has increased to 62 years from the national average of 54 years for women.  The average female child of a Marketplace artisan will finish the 10th grade, while most Indian girls only complete 4th.  Marketplace artisans work an average of 9 months of the year; most artisans had no income before becoming part of a cooperative. Marketplace offers no handouts.  All of the artisans are trained to become self sufficient, resulting in newfound confidence and self-respect.

What You Can Do

You can support Marketplace of India by purchasing their products at Global Exchange’s Fair Trade stores.  You can see the full line of Marketplace products and learn more about their programs and ways to get involved at

By Shel Mae Reinwald Manager of San Francisco Global Exchange Fair Trade Store.


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About looks at women's costume and fashion history and analyses the mood of an era. Changes in technology, leisure, work, cultural and moral values. Homelife and politics also contribute to lifestyle trends, which in turn influence the clothes we wear. These are the changes that make any era of society special in relation to the study of the costume of a period. can take no responsibility for any information on the site which may cause you error, loss or costs incurred from use of the information and links either directly or indirectly.  This site is owned, designed, written and developed by Pauline Weston Thomas and Guy Thomas. This site is designed to be viewed in 1024 X 768 or higher.Fashion History

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