It’s called I was a Sari and is the project of the Italian entrepreneur Stefano Funari. An example of circular economy applied to fashion. When Stefano, travel enthusiast, get in the workshop of a Sari trader in Mumbai, he realizes how a concept so abstract and in the concrete reality.

The workshop is rich in fabrics and Saris that waiting to start a new life. Stefano is deeply affected, he is certain that his idea will have social implications that go beyond the simple concept of a “consumer good”.

Helping women

By involving disadvantaged local women, Stefano is confident of being able to create a beautiful product and, at the same time, provide an opportunity for social redemption. The first challenge is to ensure women involved a job and a vocational training, to enable them to earn and take care of the family.

Details from I was a Sari collection

In 2013 with the help of Politecnico di Milano and some local NGOs, the first group of women begin a course on creative reuse and repair of Saris. In 2016 the number of women involved in the project is 40 people. At the end of training all women are capable of creating unique and valuable products.

An important partnership

But it’s in 2017, with the help of Gucci, that the idea takes off. No longer simple reused Sari, but real Haute Couture clothing, thanks to the aari embroidery technique.

This technique allows to create relief designs extremely elaborate and complex. It is a difficult technique to master, not only because the embroideries are performed quickly and directly on the loom, but also because it is possible to evaluate the final result only at the end.

The art of embroidery

In India, the embroidery technique is a male monopoly. A profession which, paradoxically, women are excluded. Gucci and I was a Sari decide to defeat a well-rooted prejudice in society. Thanks to the commitment of the Gucci suppliers’, the first women begin their training.

The male artisans turn out excellent teachers. By transferring their know-how to women, begin to undermine the old rules. The society and the communities begin to recognize the value of the female figure at home and in the workplace.

Unity is strength, goes the old adage. Proverb never was more truthful. On one side Gucci with Chime for Change has long been committed to supporting gender equality. The other I was a Sari that developed an ethical fashion and sustainable project that is good for women. In between the women, that can improve their lives and help their families.

In 2019 I was a Sari won the Circular Design Challenge Award, India’s first prize dedicated to sustainable fashion. Another step to Stefano and his artisans, an encouragement to all women who every day are struggling to assert their rights.