In the Simdega district of Jharkhand, around 120 kilometres from the city of Ranchi, there exists a community of weavers — the Mehar community. For years, weaving has remained a familial tradition, but like many other traditional arts, this one too is fighting a decline.
NIFT Gandhinagar graduate, Ashish Satyavrat Sahu held a dream of working with these weavers for the longest time — owing to his immense love for Jharkhandi culture and its people. Life’s fast-paced nature disallowed him to turn to his ideas, but when COVID-19 slowed things down, things took a turn — his brainchild Johargram is an ethical and sustainable streetwear brand that promotes the wondrous textiles of Jharkhand and aims to popularise the traditional medium.
In my conversation with Ashish, he was quick to mention why he chose a streetwear approach to build his brand: “We didn’t want our garments to just be hanging in someone’s wardrobe — we don’t believe in special occasions. Our clothes are meant to be worn out and about.”
Bomber jackets, bandanas, tunics and more — the label screams streetwear, but in a manner India has never seen before. The deep red, which by tradition stands for balidaan (sacrifice) and white that stands for shanti (peace), are in the spotlight to emphasise its roots in Jharkhand, and also a homage to the Mehar weaver community.
“I have never seen a sustainable streetwear brand in India that is not expensive and elite. Neither are they rooted in tradition, nor do they serve a community,” says Ashish. As I prodded into the Johargram’s background, he would circle back to the major role of the weavers, and how for the most part, the company exists because of, and for them.
“Newer generations do not want to take up weaving. Due to the pandemic, their business from local art fairs had shut down. Their financial conditions were deplorable,” he explains.
All functioning parts and roles of Johargram are carried out by local talent — Ashish’s own local acquaintances model for their impressive shots, and local photography group ‘Click and Rewind’ documents the weavers’ lifestyle. Ashish feeds my curiosity and says that the response online has been nothing short of amazing, and that he truly appreciates the support for local artisans. “I have an emotional connection to Jharkhand and portraying our culture is important to me,” he shares.
Johargram, in its literal sense, is the combination of ‘namaste’ (johar) and ‘village’ (gram) — welcoming the craft and textiles of Jharkhand with the utmost respect. Its culmination with streetwear is not a fashion statement, rather a way to ensure visibility and appreciation to artisans that deserve it. The label continues to ensure economic independence of the 30 weaver families they currently work with.
This magical blend of Jharkhandi textile and tradition with mainstream streetwear is unlike any other. Entirely locally sourced, Johargram is a testament of how one can further Indian practices.
Here at Homegrown, we became fans of Johargram from the moment we laid eyes on them — what’s there to dislike about traditionally rooted garments, local artisan empowerment and classy streetwear?
Find Johargram here.
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