As India races to contain a second wave of Corona virus, artisans employed by garment factories in Mumbai are facing a harsh new reality. With red-carpet dresses and cocktail outfit orders disappearing, orders from Western fashion houses were either reduced by 70 per cent or cancelled, says Max Modesti, Founder, Les Ateliers, 2M, a Mumbai-based embroidery firm. Luxury Houses Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuttiion were the only brands that increased orders. This has led to jobs losses for around 140 million artisans since March 2020, estimates Mumbai-based Center for Monitoring Indian Economy. Left with no work and place to live, many artisans have returned to their native villages.
Suppliers go bankrupt as safety measures increase costs
According to Modesti, export houses and suppliers who tried to reopen their shops last year went bankrupt as the costs of virus-related safety measures increased their operational costs. Worst affected were the Utthan suppliers, that had made heavy investments on compliance requirements like sleep dormitories for workers in recent years. Rosey Hurst, Founder, Impact , the Mumbai-based consultancy firm that manages the Utthan notes, many brands stopped employing hand embroidery ateliers between March and July 2020 due to heavy order disruption.
During this period, Utthan signatories teamed up with Mumbai exporters to protect jobs and support payments of over 1,000 karigars informally employed by Utthan subcontractors.
Pandemic-led fears threaten survival
Though many of artisans are now being employed Indian bridal designers, pandemic-related fears are preventing them from stepping out of their homes for work. Most karigars are Muslim men, an increasingly socially marginalized section of the society. Their situation is likely to persist till 2022, threatening the survival of their art.