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In Recognition of International Women’s Day

March 07, 2016

In Recognition of International Women’s Day

In recognition of International Women’s Day, a few words about the women of Mehera Shaw

-from the desk of Mark Keller

 

The first woman to come to work at Mehera Shaw was, of course, our co-founder, chief designer, and director—Shari Keller.  At the time Shari was entering a male bastion, of sorts, because in India the trade of stitching and tailoring is traditionally the province of men.  Naturally, Shari came with some assets that merited respect and eased her entry somewhat—education, knowledge of western tastes and design, able to speak Hindi. 

 

The main obstacle she faced, not only as a woman, but as an employer, was to create an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect.  It was important, if the business were to succeed, that the staff realize they could share their thoughts and ideas without worrying whether they lined up with what the “boss” already thought and wanted to hear.  They also had to understand that Shari did not require any kind of extraordinary handling, as a female, and especially as  western female.  Ordinary good manners and consideration were sufficient.

 

And, happily, trust and mutual respect among all the staff were established over time, though not without some bumps and hesitations, and by now quite a few visitors have noted that Mehera Shaw, with its woman director, has an unusually harmonious and civil working environment. 

 

And it was partly because word of this got around, that our second woman came to work for us, arriving with her husband on the back of a motor scooter one day, saying she had heard Mehera Shaw was a good place to work, and that she wanted a job.  Shari had been hoping to hire women for some time, but the men had reservations.  What would she do?  She didn’t know how to operate a sewing machine.  How would the rest of the staff react to her presence?  Would their manners be up to the mark?  What if they said or did something wrong?

 

The men’s reservations might sound a bit silly, even extreme, but the fact is that the average Indian man doesn’t know many women outside of his extended family.  His extended family may be huge, of course, so in net terms he knows many women.  But almost only from his family.  Outside of his work and family environment, he will rarely, if ever,  converse with a woman; and the same is true in reverse—the women know lots of men, but only within their family circles.

 

I wasn’t there to witness what then transpired, but I surmise that Shari exerted come careful, subtle pressure, and the woman was hired to do some basic work that required no special skills.

 

And everything was fine.  The roof didn’t fall in.  The men realized that this “strange female” wasn't a separate species from their female relatives, and that normal good manners and respectfulness were all she required to feel at home there.

 

After that other women began to show up, as the word went around, somehow, that Mehera Shaw was not only a “good place to work”, but a “good place for women.”

 

I mentioned earlier that stitching and tailoring, in the Jaipur region of India, are practiced almost exclusively by men.  But I didn’t say that about sewing; all the women sew, some of them elaborately, beautifully.  They crochet.  They knit.  They know kantha stitching, traditional to this region and highly valued.  And these skills are now being employed in our upcycling projects.  The hand stitching also adds value to garments.  These are skills the men don’t have.

 

A couple of the Mehera Shaw women, Manju Ji and Meena Ji, have become trainers for the other women, guiding them though the making of new products, many of which, again, are based on their traditional skills, and maybe even patterned after things in their own homes.  They also oversee quality quality control, and have been given charge over such matters as fabric selection in the creation of up cycled products.

 

Some of the women have expressed a desire learn machine stitching as well, and they have begun training, under the guidance of our Pattern Master/Production Director.

 

But the important point about this is that the way is open for any woman at Mehera Shaw, or man, to acquire whatever skills they seek, or advance to any responsible position they are qualified for, without regard to gender, caste, or religion.

 

Another lucky aspect to having women on our staff has their interaction with our foreign interns, all of whom, up to now, have been young women.  Coming from Europe, UK, Australia, the U.S., fresh from their studies and formal training, they enter a practical realm of hands-on experience. Their appreciation for our women’s skills has been very encouraging.  And our women have been fairly persistent about drawing them into their tea circle. So friendships, sharing, and all the stuff that’s often called “cross-cultural exchange” happens surprisingly quickly and very naturally.

 

This has been very gratifying for all of us.

 

About a year ago, Shari went out to a village to attend the wedding celebration of a relative of one of our employees.  It was a a high energy night of dancing (women with women/men with men), eating, gabbing, laughing.  And she had a ball  In the midst of this, a woman approached Shari, introducing her young daughter.  “She is in the eleventh grade,” she explained.  “And she is staying in school.”

 

Somehow, she knew that Shari would care.  Possibly, the word had gone around in that village that Mehera Shaw was a “good place for women.”

 

Well, we hope so.  These are the kinds of the things that make us feel good about what we do.




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Fit/Sizing/Care
FIT

Our styles are meant to give room to breath and move.  We use fine tailoring coupled with a relaxed, comfortable fit.

We use a fit guide for each of our styles to provide more information about the fit that was intended.

Slim Fit: a close fit to the body. Regular Fit: a comfortable, relaxed fit with room around the body. Generous Fit: a very loose fit (such as in our oversized blouses) with lots of room around the body for ease of movement.

 

SIZING

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

XS/ 36

S/ 38

M/40

L/ 42

XL/44

 

 

chest

35.5 inches/ 90 cm

37.5 inches/95 cm

39.5 inches/ 100 cm

41.5 inches/ 105 cm

44.5 inches. 113 cm

4cm extra from body

waist

26 inches/ 66 cm

28 inches/ 71 cm

30 inches/ 76 cm

32 inches/ 81 cm

35 inches/ 89 cm

fitted

 

low waist

28 inches/71 cm

30 inches/76 cm

32 inches/ 81 cm

34 inches/ 86 cm

37 inches/ 94 cm

fitted

 

hip

37 inches/ 94 cm

39 inches/ 99 cm

41 inches/ 104 cm

43 inches/ 109 cm

46 inches/ 1

4cm extra from body

 

 

WASHCARE

All garments have been washed several times during the printing/dyeing and manufacturing process.  

CARE for 100% cotton

We recommend cold water machine wash (up to 30 degrees celsius) with a bio detergent and either tumble dry on low heat or line dry in shade for all of our 100% cotton garments/homewares (except for quilts).  

Iron on reverse side of garment following fabric settings.  

Do not use bleach or stain remover.

Cold water wash and low heat drying or line drying in the shade will increase the life of the garment, prolong the vibrancy of the colors and reduce energy use. Shrinkage on all cottons is minimal, approximately 3%.

Garments/homewares are dyed or printed using AZO free, low-impact, pigment or reactive dyes unless otherwise noted.  These dyes are color-fast, but care should still be taken to wash with like colors to retain the vibrancy of the colors.

CARE for 100% cotton quilts

For quilts with cotton fill, we recommend spot or light surface cleaning only with a damp cloth and mild detergent.  Eco-friendly dry cleaning is also recommended. 

CARE for herbal/vegetable dye items

Vegetable dyes are not colorfast and are specifically marked in the product description.  We strongly recommend that all vegetable dye products be washed once before use in a cold water wash with minimal detergent.  Wash separately. Tumble dry on low heat or line dry in shade.  Iron on reverse side.  Do not use bleach or stain remover.

Please keep in mind that indigo dye does continually fade over time.  This is the nature of true indigo dye and is not a defect, but rather a sign of the 'living' nature of the dye.

CARE for silk and cotton/silk

For our silk and cotton silk garments/homewares, we also recommend gentle cycle machine wash cold water (up to 30 degrees celsius) or delicate hand washing to increase the life of the garment and reduce the environmental footprint from energy use, detergents and water wastage.  

Tumble dry on low heat or line dry in shade.  

Iron on reverse side of garment following fabric settings.

Do not use bleach or stain remover.

Dry cleaning using an eco-friendly service is also recommended.

CARE for linen and cotton/linen

For our linen and cotton linen garments/homewares, we also recommend gentle cycle machine wash cold water (up to 30 degrees celsius) or delicate hand washing to increase the life of the garment and reduce the environmental footprint from energy use, detergents and water wastage.  

Tumble dry on low heat or line dry in shade.  

Iron on reverse side of garment following fabric settings.

Do not use bleach or stain remover.