Chhapa is a brand that works with artisans and uses hand block printing techniques to give a contemporary spin to tradition.
The apparel industry may have the dubious distinction of being the second highest polluter but there are conscientious brands that want to change this. And Chhapa is doing this one block at a time. Shilpa Patel, Founder & Head Designer, Chhapa tells us more in this exclusive conversation.
When and why did you start Chhapa?
‘Chhapa’ means to leave a Chhap (an Imprint) in Gujarati. when a design gets stamped on any material using wooden block is called the Chhap (Chhapa). Since I wanted to rejuvenate the block print art and decided that all the products will revolve around this technique I could not find any better brand name then Chhapa. It was founded in June 2013 and I cannot believe it will be seventh year time flies when you just love what you do. It is based out of Ahmedabad and Jaipur. Jaipur is where our workshop is located and most of the artisans practice the block print art are from this region. Startup was founded as an avocation to do some creative work and experiments in the field of block printing and eventually found the pursuit of happiness to contribute my little part towards conscious fashion. A lot of artisans were on the verge of giving up practicing this art because in today’s fast paced world where most textiles are printed using high-end machines. We wanted to rejuvenate the art of block printing by giving them a quirky dimension that will help us give artisans more work as we grow bigger.
What is the USP of the clothes at Chhapa? What kind of clothes do you make?
The uniqueness of Chhapa is mainly the prints. Our designs that are modern, casual and contemporary contrary to traditional block prints has given new twist to the art which has attracted more younger generation as customer base. Moreover, we are very particular about choosing quality of fabrics so we can deliver 100% pure cotton and feather experience to our customer. We always wanted to connect with younger audience and make them more conscious fashion savvy which is better for both us and environment in the longer run. We have Wide Range of product starting from Women’s Wear (Kurta, Dresses, Tops, Sarees), Men’s Shirts, Home Decor, Bags and Accessories.
Why did you focus on block printing?
It all started as hobby initially. My first encounter with block printing art was after my college days when I visited a small village near my hometown Deesa in Gujarat. I was still in a dilemma then about what profession to pursue as a full-time career after finishing my Bachelor’s in Interior Design. Being an art lover and admirer of handmade things, I was fascinated by the whole process of block printing. I made quite a few visits to the artisans and finally convinced them to print a few samples as part of my avocation. As I got more involved in the process, I realised that the artisans and art are really going through a bad phase and needs rejuvenation. I do not want artisans to give up on the beautiful art which has been passed to them through generations.
Please tell us more about how you have been able to make a difference to the livelihood of the artisans?
When we started working with the family of artisans back in 2013, they were on the verge of giving up this art as they were not receiving enough work to be able to sustain the whole family. After they started working with us, we are able to give them not just enough work but they now they have had to extend their printing facility to be able to supply the demand. We have given them more than 25 Lakh Rupees of Work in 2019 Alone and this is the single most thing we are very proud of apart from anything. We have also educated them on how to keep their safety at first when performing all the dying and printing. Also, we have made sure the waste management systems are well in place.
As handlooms are a dying craft, what are you doing to revive the same?
Definitely, handlooms are going through very tough time. Since the last couple of years as we have grown our customer base and we have developed products which are made from handloom fabrics and also in the future we will keep doing that so we can bring more work to the artisans. We are thinking of collaborating with artisans in small villages who practice the handloom craft to be able to produce great handmade quality products as this will also make sure they get the fair pricing for their hard work.
Tell us about your work with hand blocks and traditional textile craft?
As mentioned earlier I was very fascinated with art of hand blocks and traditional textile during my interior design studies. I came up with an idea of using hand block printing with quirky prints as this will give clothing and fashion line a completely new flavour. Since last year we are focusing on sarees more as it is helping us to experiment with new textiles. We started with cotton and recently we have developed Chanderi silk and handloom fabric sarees. In the pipeline we have plans to work with a few more fabrics.
How do you incorporate sustainability into your clothes?
Our motto itself is to deliver environment friendly and socially responsible style statement. It starts with all the fabric that we use which are 100% sustainable. All the dyes we use are azo free which are approved by Government and that is neither harmful to the environment nor the artisans who work with it. Even our packaging does not contain any plastic. Currently we are in talks with a new startup who has developed dyes from waste bark around the area of Mumbai and if that collaboration works out we want to do exclusive collection with those dyes so we can help the startup grow faster and reach out to a wider audience.
What kind of materials do you work with?
Our men’s and women apparel, kid’s collection and sarees are 100% cotton. We have developed a range of unisex tees from organic cotton and have a few exclusive men’s apparel and women sarees in handloom cotton. We have recently launched sarees in Chanderi Silk which was worn by Vidya Balan and got much appreciation from all our followers.
Who or what inspires you?
Any artist who try to incorporate sustainability in their creations and bring out something very creative is what inspires me. I have always appreciated good creations even when it comes from our competitor brands. It motivates me to always bring the best in me. I also like to challenge myself and the team so we can be better than our last collection and continue to find innovative ways to incorporate sustainability into our processes creation and as a brand overall.
How frequently do you bring out new collections?
We bring out our new collections every summer for our apparel line. We try to deliver couple of new designs each month in sarees. Currently our new summer collection is in pipeline and has a range of new apparel, kids clothing and new born swaddles. We are also working to bring out our new designs which will highlight Egyptians art and geometry play.
What are your future plans?
Currently we are working on few different marketing strategies to reach to wider audience on social and other print media platforms. The future plan is to acquire more customer base to be able to give more and more work to our artisans and expand our retail store footprint. With the success of both our Online and flagship retail store we will look into the possibility of getting funding in future. We are also open to franchise model for our retail footprint so we can grow even faster.
This story first appeared in the October 2020 issue of Apparel here: