New brand Chamar Studio works to empower artisans
Sudheer Rajbhar’s new accessories brand Chamar looks to celebrate artisans and preserve their work and will soon launch a line of all blue accessories.
The brand also recently launched at the multi-brand boutiques Le Mill in Mumbai and Paper Boat Collective in Goa.
After starting with a collection of minimalist, waterproof, and eco-friendly bags, Rajbhar will create a line of all blue accessories inspired by the blue cobblers’ uniforms worn by cobblers who work at railway stations.
“I want to train these men and enable them to raise their income,” Rajbhar told Elle India.
“If I can grow my company, maybe people will stop associating the word ‘Chamar’ with poverty and inconsequence. How amazing would that be?” Rajbhar intends to continue to expand his pool of artisans across India.
“Chamar” and “Bhar” are often affixed to names and used as slurs to demean those considered low caste whose occupation is usually connected to the leather industry. As Rajbhar himself has “Bhar” attached to his name, he knows this discrimination first-hand. By naming his brand Chamar, Rajbhar is reclaiming the term and using it to empower, not denigrate.
Rajbhar is currently working with teams of artisans who lost their jobs after the 2015 beef ban. In order to work around the ban but preserve their skills, the artisans now work with recycled rubber, cotton, and thick canvas. The workers receive half of the proceeds from the bags which are designed at Rajbhar’s home studio in Kandivali, which he intends to turn into a collaborative art space.
After seeing first-hand how many artisans in India are exploited and their work traditions forgotten during an artist’s residency in 2014, Rajbhar decided to do something about it.
Rajbhar curated an exhibition at the Clark House Initiative in Mumbai in 2017 entitled “We Are Here Because You Are There” that featured work by artists’ apprentices and helpers.
Following this, Rajbhar created his own accessories line and launched Chamar Studio during the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in February, 2018, at the Jehangir Art Gallery.
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