On the eve of the first Roza, I am writing to wish all my students at our training centres and makers at our all women factory Ramadan Kareem!

Last year this time, we had half the number of people in our team fasting than we have today. This year, the number is up to 40%. We have grown in numbers and so has our responsibility. I am reminded of the resilience of the makers this time last year and the lessons in tolerance, inclusivity, empathy and love for the rest of us as an outcome of this collective experience. At our factory, we plan for the month of Ramadan taking into account the changed timings, fatigue and other needs of those observing fasts during the month of Ramadan. Those observing the roza come in earlier in the morning after Suhoor, and leave early so that they can prepare Iftar for their families before it is time to break the fast. The month of May in Delhi is the hottest summer month. Last year, Kahkeshan, (22 years old, maker-in-charge of production) and Rijbana, (26 years old, maker-in-charge of new sampling), didn’t take a single day off during the month. …

April 22, 2019

Weligama Bay, Sri Lanka

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It was a perfect sunny day in Weligama. I was lying in a cabana at the Marriott hotel beach, sipping on a chilled king coconut and listening to Frank Ocean on Spotify. It is but ironic that I was reading ‘The Runaways’ by Fatima Bhutto. Fiction, but so real. If you read till the end, you’ll know why.

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Our driver and tour guide for the week, Fernando* from Negombo came to me looking visibly disturbed, ‘Something really bad has happened, Ms. Gayatri’. He showed me a video of bodies strewn across the floor of a demolished church and the loud cries of those who had been hurt. His screen was cracked so visibility was low, but I could tell this was bad just by the sounds I could hear. I got a horrible feeling at the pit of my stomach. ‘It must be the muslims’, he added. The feeling got worse. Do you mean IS? I wanted to ask. But this wasn’t the right time. He was clearly operating from a place of shock and fear. A father of two at 49, Fernando lost his own father when he was 19 when the LTTE barged into his home and shot his father in front his eyes. He could never forget that moment that changed his life, but insisted that even 30 years of civil war did not see an incident like this one. Disoriented, and without any warning, he suddenly walked away to make some calls to check on his family, many of whom were likely to be at this church on this festive Easter morning. …

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The story of every informal daily wage worker in the developing world.

I wake up each morning yearning for a new experience and to embrace my to-do list. There is no denying that I am in love with my job. It’s the kind of job where you ‘don’t work a day in your life’. Every now and then, however, I realise that there are lessons I am not quite equipped to handle.

It’s a beautiful rainy morning at my studio in Delhi. A gentleman barely 5 feet tall walks in. …

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MasterG is a comprehensive garment skills training, certification and employment program which condenses the traditional decades-long apprenticeship model of training in the garment industry into a year long, industry standards module. This program, which is aimed at women from marginalised and migrant communities in India, helps prevent women from breaking the cycle between education and employment due to social and cultural barriers. This localised program helps women become MasterGs in their own right, while earning a living with dignity in a notoriously informal and exploitative industry, skewed in favour of male master Jis. …

“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Learning to play an instrument is much like the pursuit of skill development in India. It takes a lot of practice and years before you can wrap your head around the subtleties and intricacies. You might still not become a maestro and there is no generic word for someone who is succesful in the field of providing skills, which explains that we are commiting to running in circles forever. After all, there is also an element of being naturally blessed with a talent or ability. Ever played the same piece multiple times only to experience a completely different outcome? The common factor is the human who is responsible for the unpredictable nature of the outcome. One day, you play because you are happy and the very next because you are not. There are chemical changes and your fingers won’t move with the same gusto. Applying the same thought to skill development in fashion, I fathom the same rules don’t apply to every new community one works with. How can there be a blanket approach? …

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Just as the art of tailoring is taught by father to son, who are referred to as khandaani darzis in India, the intricate and labor intensive Phulkari embroidery is passed down from mother to daughter. These skills have endured the test of time, albeit only experientially, limiting them to a small number of individuals who may or may not take them further to the next generation owing to lack of remunerative opportunities.

But if the art is dying, how relevant are archaic gender roles?

MasterG, an innovative skill development module has been set up with the idea of preserving India’s dying arts and empowering women to take them forward. Knowledge that is informally passed down from one generation to the next is indispensable, yet hardly documented. …

It took me 15 years to come to Parsons.

And today, I feel truly honored to have the opportunity to speak in front of a powerhouse of awe-inspiring talent.

Congratulations to each one of you! We made it.

I was 10 when I decided that I would move to New York City one day to become a fashion designer. I had no idea how it was going to happen but I wasn’t planning, I was only dreaming. It has been quite a meandering route to get here, but all the twists and turns did not prepare me for the beautiful way in which Parsons would challenge me. …


Gayatri Jolly

Head MasterG + Founder/Creative Director, Heimat.

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