Shopping is fun. And shopping with meaning and purpose is better! As you know, Glamorous Giving is a key tenet of the Elaine Turner brand. So I was thrilled when one of my team members brought Bloom & Give to the table as a potential partner. Headquartered in Dallas, the company was started by friends Madhu Rajendran and Partha Raghunathan to sell beautiful textiles while also educating Indian girls. Learn more about theses two and their company in the Q & A below, then visit our Houston boutiques on November 18 to see their beautiful scarves in person.
ET: What was your inspiration and how did you get started?
BG: We are in love with the beauty and simplicity of handmade goods. Every one of our products is crafted by local artisans in India, who use rich techniques of weaving, dyeing and sewing that have been passed down through hundreds of generations. We pair modern design with traditional artistry to create beautiful products for everyday life. We got started in Rajasthan, India — on a trip to help a friend source block printed textiles in Jaipur. We instantly fell in love with the craft!
ET: Tell us briefly about your model of giving and how it involves partners, the community, volunteers and instills leadership in the girls.
BG: During the same trip to Rajasthan, we also couldn’t help notice the gender disparity and inequity in the villages where these artisans lived — hard to see as dads of confident young girls in Dallas (between us, we have three daughters). Ironically, for the same reason that traditional craft continues to thrive in these areas, so has traditional thinking about the role of women. Education happens to be the only effective way for a girl to escape the endless cycle of childhood marriage, pre-teen pregnancy and abuse, as we witnessed in many villages with intervention programs. And when a girl goes to school, she earns more money, has healthier children, and reinvests more in her family. An education changes her life, and the lives of generations to come.
Our grassroots program is run by an amazing organization called Educate Girls. Educate Girls works in 4,500 villages of India, covering 8,000 schools in areas where 40% of girls leave school before completing fifth grade. Their award-winning model includes local volunteers who visit out-of-school girls at home and help them re-enroll. These volunteers also serve as mentors and tutors, helping girls improve academically and stay in school — they have enrolled over 100,000 out-of-school girls to date.
Perhaps the most innovative element of the model is the election of girls’ councils in every school. This council gives girls a voice, a leadership position in the school and training in “life skills.” These girls also act as role models for the younger girls and gives them conviction to voice their desires to stay in school.
ET: Tell us about your textiles, special features and the current collection of scarves?
BG: We work only with natural fabrics — our current collection is a rich (and deliciously soft) mix of hand-spun cashmere (Pashmina), silk and cotton in fall color-ways with gorgeous accents — eyelash fringes, tassels, metallic embroidery, etc. Some of our favorite textiles in the collection:
Khadi cotton — Possibly the most natural form of cotton in the world, “Khadi” is hand-spun using a traditional spinning wheel, and then hand-woven in a loom, producing a fabric with a rich texture. Made famous by Gandhi over 50 years ago as a symbol of self-employment and sustainability for artisans in rural India, its zero ecological footprint makes this fabric even more relevant today.
Pashmina wool — Weavers in Himalayan Kashmir have been making Pashmina (fine cashmere) shawls and accessories for centuries. Pashmina threads are so fine that they have to be individually hand-spun in a traditional loom. Kashmiri pashmina, which accounts for less than 0.1% of all cashmere products globally, is the softest form of cashmere you will touch.
ET: Tell us about a little about yourselves.
BG: We have been close friends for 20 years. We’ve traveled together, worked together in multiple industries and shared many adventures in India, where we were both born. Through Bloom & Give, we want to showcase the incredible artistry and potential of handmade products. Each day, we watch our own daughters develop confidence, learn new skills and become self-reliant by going to school. They validate our deep-rooted belief that education is a fundamental right for every girl — no matter where in the world she lives. We are a couple of dads trying to make a difference!
ET: How else is Bloom & Give helping in India?
BG: This year we have also started identifying and funding initiatives that fund a school or group of girls in need. One, the Mangala School, serves 15 tribal villages in the southern state of Karnataka. Due to its location in a heavily forested region, the school faces a big problem of attrition – of students, and teachers as well. The school has been adopted by The Vanam Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes socially just and ecologically sustainable development. Vanam helps fund infrastructure projects, student retention efforts and helps with teacher staffing.
Another initiative, Doosra Dashak (“Second Decade”), provides a second chance of education to rural area adolescents who are out of school. Through our partnership, we will provide full funding to a community center in Samrathpura village in Rajasthan for one year. This center will provide basic education and training in health, gender sensitivity, religious harmony and personal cleanliness to the nearly 100 out-of-school adolescents in the village, to help them take charge of their lives with dignity.
We hope to do more of these as our business scales. Because ultimately, Bloom & Give’s goal is to use business to create massive social impact.
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