Sustainability on your sleeve

Photo courtesy: Good Earth  

From working with village potters on a farm in Chhatarpur to supporting the interior services for the renovation of the Rajmahal Palace, Jaipur, Good Earth has come a long way in 20 years. The luxury retail brand has been a pioneer of sorts in the movement to promote quality craftsmanship in the country.

Founder Anita Lal’s daughter, Simran Lal, is now the CEO of the company. She talks about the growth of the brand, why consumers should care about crafts and how to enjoy luxury responsibly.

What was the motivation to start Good Earth?

Nineteen years ago, my mother, a ceramics designer, saw that the craft of the kumbhars or village potters was dying out. They were losing their means of livelihood as terracotta matkas were giving way to plastic containers. She took their craft and contemporised it. Back then, there was a dearth of places that sold well-made products with an Indian aesthetic. She wanted to bridge this gap and offer products that revived forgotten craft traditions and celebrated the best of India, without being kitschy. She launched Good Earth in South Mumbai, was met with much love and appreciation, and soon faced with an overwhelming demand.

How easy or difficult was it to make people understand what you were attempting to do?

When we set out, we had confidence in the evolving Indian consumer. As their sense of cultural identity emerged as a statement of pride and style, the brand found its niche and a flourishing audience. We offered them “import”-quality products with designs rooted in our culture and tradition.

What has the journey been like?

From that one shop, we have now grown into a luxury retail brand with shops in six Indian cities, one in Ankara, one in Istanbul and a web boutique delivering to over 40 countries.

One recent milestone is when we sponsored ‘The Fabric of India’ exhibition at the Victoria & Albert (V&A) museum in London last year. Another is an association that started in 2014 when the royal family of Jaipur commissioned our interiors division, led by Adil Ahmad, to style and support the interior services for the Jaipur ‘Rajmahal’ palace renovation.

What were some of the challenges you faced?

From floods to bears, each day is a new adventure! Building an artisan community-sustaining business in India requires both tenacity and a sense of humour. The other part of our challenge is to educate a wider base of customers about the value of heritage traditions being kept alive through designs and the finest craftsmanship. I also feel that it is our responsibility to promote craft traditions and to collaborate with artisans to evolve the design vocabulary for a contemporary global audience.

Why is it important to create such avenues for craftspeople?

I believe that we would be impoverished at an economic, social and cultural level, if we were to devalue our crafts, which are the wellspring of our creativity, and provide a livelihood to millions of men and women. It is very important for me to work on reviving and sustaining craftsmanship, as artisans are the repositories of heritage traditions. We need to honour their knowledge and skill and ensure they are given their dignity and due respect at the emotional and material level.

What is sustainable luxury all about? And, how does one enjoy luxury responsibly?

Sustainable luxury is a passionate belief that we can support the planet and its people in a meaningful and relevant way, through the revival of craft and cultural traditions. We have great reverence for our heritage; therefore, sustaining cultural and design traditions comes naturally. This ranges from incrementally eliminating synthetics and plastics as far as possible and thoughtfully choosing crafts to revive long-term artisan collaborations with real commitment.

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Printable version | Jun 17, 2021 9:01:18 PM |

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