Handmade and Upcycled: Empowering Local Artisans

Upcycling provides local artisans with a platform to showcase their skills and creativity. The creative use of discarded materials helps in producing unique and one-of-a-kind products that stand out in the market. This allows artisans to differentiate themselves from mass-produced goods and attract customers who appreciate the value of handmade and sustainable products. Additionally, upcycling encourages artisans to think outside the box and find innovative solutions to transform waste materials. It challenges them to experiment with different techniques and materials, pushing the boundaries of their craftsmanship.


Supporting local artisans through upcycling and purchasing their unique creations is more than acquiring a one-of-a-kind item; it's an action that contributes to the growth of a sustainable and creative economy. The act of buying such products plays an important role in creating demand for handmade goods. Upcycling is an effective and powerful tool that empowers local artisans, promotes sustainability and contributes to building a vibrant, healthy community by providing employment opportunities. The brands listed below are examples of those actively working towards artisanal development through upcycling.


I Was A Sari is a socially conscious brand that focuses on upcycling to create unique products, showcasing the exceptional craftsmanship of local women artisans. This brand plays a pivotal role in empowering women from underprivileged communities by providing them with job opportunities and a platform to showcase their skills. This sustainable label has been instrumental in writing success stories for 650 Indian women, with 60% of them securing their first job through this initiative. The brand collaborates with NGOs to source unused saris, transforming them into high-quality, upcycled products. Notably, I Was A Sari has formed a partnership with the luxury brand Gucci, starting a project that supports women in achieving financial independence.

(Image credit: I Was a Sari, Gucci Equilibrium)


Kauseyah, deeply rooted in creating sustainable products, and dedicated to supporting and uplifting local indigenous artisans. This brand builds a strong connection with indigenous traditions, particularly through the skilled hands of rural artisans from Chhattisgarh. Kauseyah specialises in upcycling, creating a wide range of beautiful, handcrafted accessories, apparel, and journal covers, all with a zero-waste approach. The brand creates employment opportunities for tribal women in need but also plays an important role in developing their skills. It emphasises preserving and promoting generational-old hand skills and craftsmanship. By using traditional techniques, Kauseyah is committed to producing zero-waste products while honouring its rich cultural heritage.

(Image credit: Kauseyah, Rural Artisanal Community)


Sonica Sarna is an Indian ethical fashion label committed to minimising waste and maximising authentic artisan representation. The brand emphasises social and environmental impact, employing over 500 women and training more than 900 artisans in India. With a focus on regenerative textile practices and a zero-waste design philosophy, Sonica Sarna fosters respectful artisan partnerships and uses organic materials. brand operates a certified in-house factory, #ProjectThrive, a sewing center aimed at supporting at-risk women from the slums of New Delhi. This initiative provides training and employment opportunities, creating organic, zero-waste products and offering these women a path to economic equality.

(Image credit: Sonica Sarna - Project Thrive)


Paperwings is a unique brand that transforms paper into handcrafted, eco-friendly, and sustainable products suitable for daily use. This brand ensures that each purchase contributes to reducing carbon footprints and has a positive impact on the lives of over 1000 craftswomen from various villages. These women, often from low-income backgrounds, face numerous challenges. Created by the Action Center For Transformation (ACT) under the initiative "Kaagaz Ke Pankh", Paper Wings aims to address two significant issues: waste management in urban areas and the lack of sustainable livelihood opportunities for women in rural communities. Their mission is to turn these challenges into opportunities, promoting both environmental improvement and social empowerment.

(Image credit: Paperwings Rural Artisans)


SOKO Kenya is a women-led, ethical jewellery brand, primarily a tech-powered manufacturing platform designed to connect Kenyan artisans with the global marketplace. This jewellery brand believes in using business as a force for good and strives to reduce inequality and poverty by creating meaningful employment opportunities. Their jewellery is handcrafted by Kenyan artisans, made from 24k gold-plated recycled brass, and their coloured products are created using locally sourced recycled glass.

(Image credit: SOKO Kenyan Artisans)

SOKO operates on a unique virtual factory model, using a mobile application developed to connect its network of artisans. This innovative supply chain leverages mobile technology to directly link independent artisan entrepreneurs with SOKO's team, enabling them to receive orders and payments efficiently. The platform is built with an informal yet productive environment, designed to nurture local talent in Kenya and ease economic hardship.

Supporting local artisans represents sustainability and community well-being, and upcycling offers a positive ecological contribution while nurturing artisanal skills. It serves as a step towards a creative economy, celebrates unique craftsmanship, and reinforces the foundations of local communities by empowering and providing ethical work opportunities.

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