Bloom & Give
The beauty of an ethically-made product is far less about the product as much as it is about the artistry, storytelling, and thoughtful process that goes into crafting an item. Often the greatest products are those that incorporate long-held traditions, rare fabrics, and careful hand-making. This love of rich history and unique craftsmanship is what initially drew friends Madhu and Partha to the idea of starting Bloom & Give, a socially conscious textile business on a mission to help reverse gender inequality.
After a trip to India a few years ago to help a friend source handmade scarves, the founders discovered artisan cooperatives meticulously designing and crafting beautiful textiles using time-honored traditions.
“We saw factories that operated with no electricity; cotton yarn being slowly and laboriously spun on a wooden wheel, gorgeous silk tassels being assembled one at a time, by hand; cashmere throws being dipped in vats of natural dye, mixed with uncanny precision; a group of women sitting outside their homes doing 8-foot long running stitches on a quilt by hand. These highly specialized techniques of weaving, dyeing, and sewing have been passed down, literally unchanged, through hundreds of generations,” said Partha.
Not long into their trip, the friends, both of which were currently working in the tech industry, felt they could marry the traditional techniques with contemporary designs and style and market the pieces to appeal to today’s woman. While on their trip, though, they discovered another area that now plays a large role in Bloom & Give’s mission.
“While spending time in the villages, we also couldn’t help but notice the massive gender disparity and inequity. In rural Rajasthan, one of the States of India with some of the richest traditions of art and craft, 50% of the girls marry before the age of 18. It was very jarring for us to see 13-year old brides, and 18-year old moms in these villages,” said Partha.
Between both friends, they have three girls, making the weight of what they saw hit even closer to home.
"These highly specialized techniques of weaving, dyeing, and sewing have been passed down, literally unchanged, through hundreds of generations,”
“It seemed that along with the beautiful skills of textile making, truly horrendous and misogynistic beliefs about the role of girls and women had also been faithfully passed down hundreds of generations. We then discovered that education is the only effective way for a girl to escape this endless rut of childhood marriage, pre-teen pregnancy, and abuse,” said Partha.
Not only does research show the positive impact that education has on the lives of girls, Madhu and Partha saw firsthand how opportunities to attend school allowed women to play strong leadership roles in their communities and even in some cases be seen as equals to the men around them.
"In rural Rajasthan, one of the States of India with some of the richest traditions of art and craft, 50% of the girls marry before the age of 18."
After interacting with one of the teachers, Ms. Maya Saini, and seeing her incredible impact on the girls at school, the founders decided to take on a socially conscious, give-back model that is now integral to their business.
Fast forward to today, where Bloom & Give offers a gorgeous variety of scarves, home textiles, and accessories made by artisans using the traditional weaving, dyeing and block-printing techniques that the founders discovered during their original visit to local cooperatives. Each product purchased is also combined with a way to directly impact girls education in India. About 50% of Bloom & Give’s give-back dollars are directed toward their Grassroots Program led by their partner, Educate Girls.
Educate Girls uses local volunteers to help girls currently not in school enroll and stay in classes. Additionally, these volunteers, who operate in 4,500 villages, help to tutor and mentor the girls empowering them to grow in their academics. Bloom & Give also has a Targeted Program where the other half of their funds flow to.
“Each year, we identify three targeted programs that directly benefit a school or a community with an acute funding need. We continually monitor these programs for effectiveness and visit each project at least three times,” said Partha.
In 2017, Bloom & Give supported four programs and are looking at potentially eight for 2018. Some of the projects they have helped with in the past included funding vocational training for those with hearing disabilities and providing a new classroom and bus support at the Mangala Government School.
"Each year, we identify three targeted programs that directly benefit a school or a community with an acute funding need."
“Last year we impacted an estimated 1,000 girls,” said Partha. “We have just started what we hope will be a meaningful contribution to society someday. We want to grow Bloom & Give to a point where we are able to donate a million dollars to girls’ education each year.”
Partha also said that he and Madhu having daughters of their own is the primary reason they were so troubled by the gender inequity in rural India.
“Today, when we visit the schools and villages we support, we see so many smiling faces; little girls who would otherwise be working or married, and instead, we can see that they are well on their way to be strong, independent women, who are going to lead their communities someday,” said Partha.
Bloom & Give’s focus on positive social impact extends to many facets, including their role in this past year’s Dressember campaign as a brand partner. Partha expressed how their own work through their business gives them a deep appreciation for the humanitarian work being done by organizations such as Dressember.
“Most people really have no idea how much gender disparity exists in the developing world - South Asia in particular. Millions of young girls are being taken advantage of. Sex trafficking is the worst possible atrocity they will be subjected to. Education is the long-term solution, we are convinced, but it’s not enough. The role that Dressember and their advocates play is critically important.”
Today, rich fabrics including hand-loomed cotton (Khadi), handwoven pashmina (Cashmere) and raw silk (Tussar) are pieced together by local artists in India as a way to keep both the colorful history alive as well as to fund life-giving education opportunities for girls through Bloom & Give’s business model. The impact on both the artists and the girls is far-reaching.
“We want to be the pioneering storytellers of this incredible artistry,” said Partha. “And we want to tell this story through products that can be used in everyday life, and do it without sacrificing our core values of fair trade.”
We love Bloom & Give, and our shared mission of empowering women. We want your consumer dollar to go to products that empower women artisans globally. That is why we place an emphasis on collaborating with ethical companies to bring you options when it comes to online shopping. Use code DRESSEMBER at checkout for 20% off the Bloom & Give Store. You can access their shop by following the link below!
About the Author
Michaela Judge is a military veteran and Southern transplant. As a Public Relations specialist by day, she is overjoyed to use her love of writing to help fight for freedom and justice through Dressember! Her favorite moments are spent with her husband, Phil, and daughter, Ellie, adventuring in Charleston, South Carolina, and spreading hospitality .