Spearheaded by Nest in partnership with luxury brand Maiyet and architect, David Adjaye, the Varanasi Project aims to rescue and revive the 500 year-old silk weaving tradition in Varanasi, India. The project seeks to help hundreds of Varanasi artisans to reclaim their livelihoods through their own means by providing them the fair market access they need to compete with increasing cheap labor from the Far East. Addressing threats to product quality posed by working from home, a new David Adjaye-designed atelier in Varanasi will safeguard textiles from the threats of rain and heat. As a community center, it will promote fair treatment of women and peace between Hindu and Muslim communities.

The Paris Journey: A Quest for Market Access

In February 2015, as part of the market access-focused stage of this project, Nest brought its artisan partner from Varanasi to Paris unveil the business’ first solo-collection of hand-loomed silks. Designed by a Nest-hired consultant with experience producing with Oscar de la Renta, Caroline Herrera, and Versace, the collection is a stunning example of luxury created by master craftsmen in the unlikely location of rural India. With the collection, design leader, Megan Ryley, sought to demonstrate the vast array of opportunities for designers to work into the handloom silk technique, as well as to help generate orders for Varanasi’s silk-weaving artisans who have struggled since the emergence of the power loom and cheap labor from China.

Shared privately with luxury brands and quoted by Women’s Wear Daily as “upping the artisanal factor”, the collection was received with great praise. While this signifies a promising leap towards greater market access for Nest’s artisan partner in Varanasi, the quest for market access continues and can benefit from your support.

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