Hussain picks me up in his rickshaw, and instead of going through the Pink City, he drives the livelier back roads to arrive at Vintage Recycle Art. The limitations in our communication result in him mostly pointing out the obvious “Hindu temple,” “Indian festival” and me asking one word questions “brother?” “wedding?”
I began going to Vintage Recycle Art in May 2015 when Shakeer—rickshaw-driver-to-small-business-owners— took me there to find block printed fabrics. It is owned and run by Parvez who started this company almost five years ago, after decades of experience in domestic (tourist) retail. My work with Parvez has invigorated me in my pursuit to buy with integrity.
Less Warehousey, more villagey
I’ll admit that when I imagined “ethically sourcing” new products, I conjured something a bit less warehousey, more villagey. I was mired in worries over the ethical treatment of goats for cashmere, the environmental impact of flying my goods from far-flung corners of the world, of trying to work exclusively with women.* But what I have found is an unwavering goodness in Vintage. My definition of “buying with integrity” is evolving, and with this expansion has come a notable new partnership with a for-profit, small business that oozes goodness.
*Still working on these things too - haven't forgotten about the goats!
Why Vintage is so good (or why I love working with them)
1) My own private warehouse.
Vintage completely empties out during the call to prayer. The first time this happened, one minute I was inside a bustling warehouse, and the next it was crickets; I was all alone! Often, I walk away from a conversation with Parvez to get a sample of a fabric that I like, and when I come back thirty seconds later, he’s gone. Why does this top my list? When they slip out without warning, I feel as though I am more fluidly folded into the Vintage world. And their departure for prayer compels me to reflect on the things that I do (or don’t do) throughout my day to center myself.
2) The chai vibe.
Speaking of centering myself, the vibe in Vintage is relaxed, joyful, and warm. When I asked Parvez about handwriting all of his record-keeping, he said he tried a computer, but it caused stress. The chai flows and when it comes, the expectation is that I will put down whatever fabrics are in my hands, and go enjoy it.
3) Hindus and Muslims under one roof, oh my.
More recently, I have seen an increasing number of women working there, mostly Hindu (see #1 – I am no longer left completely alone, joined now by these women). Parvez, perhaps worried I will judge his choices, hesitates when he tells me certain business practices are a result of his religion. There is only one Muslim woman working there, they mostly work from home, and he has only recently hired women at all in this location. When I first visited Vintage, I asked Parvez where the women were, and he sheepishly told me a story of a Muslim woman who came to him for work at a time that he did not hire women to work in the facility. He told her she would have to work from home and she would need to learn Photoshop. Dream job! She now has joined the workforce at the warehouse and manages purchasing and accounts. She also designs new wooden blocks for block printing, and I’m looking forward to collaborating with her on Linen Feast blocks for Linen Feast!
4) Local impact.
Parvez employs 30 people in his warehouse (including one of his brothers), and 50 artisans nearby. He also has his own block printing center in Jaipur (most are outside of the city), as well as dedicated screen and block printers in nearby Sanganer and Bagru. Rather than outsourcing to far-flung villages or renting a warehouse far from the city where most manufacturing centers are, Parvez has set up shop right in Jaipur. He hired a master tailor who then used his connections from previous jobs to find people nearby who didn’t want to travel hours to get to their big—low-paying—factory job. This is how most of the Hindu women came to Vintage, where they are paid better, have no commute, and are seamlessly folded into the Vintage family.
For more on businesses doing good, Fortune’s Change the World List, features companies that are impacting local and global communities in ways that are undeniably “good”. These companies are by all means not flawless, but it’s an informative read that expanded my views on ethical business practices.
If you travel to India to source textiles for your small business, go see Parvez at Vintage Recycle Art. If you want me to source for you, contact me. Next up on the LF blog, my thoughts on happily sharing sources with other aspiring businesses in my market!