Balulu consists of a very small and close team of workers.
There’s me (Lulu) the founder - head honcho, designer, coordinator, content producer and marketing manager.
Dada - Formerly in the Air Force and looking for a career change, Dada is the owner of the shop where the work takes place as well as Head of Production. He employed the two tailors that work in the shop (Amit & Dualat) because of their incredible skill set and attention to detail. Dada and I also share a lot of responsibility when it comes to the logistical side of things. He will introduce me to fabric suppliers, and together we calculate and devise a fair and equal payment method for all the people involved.
Dada is always making sure I am well looked after during my stay in Varanasi. He picks me up from the airport, organises my guesthouse booking, introduces me to his reliable and trustworthy tuk tuk driver, lends me a phone which I can use an Indian sim card with (iPhones are a nightmare for this), brings chai to the shop when we are working there, accompanies me to the fabric suppliers, and even invited me to his daughters wedding which I attended in December.
Amit - Lead Tailor. Amit started learning how to sew at the age of 10. Initially he was working under the supervision of his master tailor (whom he was taught by) and later on at the age of 15 he started working on his own. He is a specialist of making full suits, gents style and also ladies garments. He has 17 years of experience working in this field, and has worked for Dada since 2005.
Dualat - Lead Tailor
His own words.
‘I am from a family of tailors. That’s why I came to this shop. Not to earn money but to learn. I have been learning since 1996, when I was 16 years old. I was taught by my father who is a Master Tailor, as well as my grandfather and brother. I wanted to become a tailor during my studies and just to learn the knowledge. I decided this is what I was going to do after finishing school.
I have lived in Varanasi all my life. I knew there was a job going in Dada's shop so I applied for it. I had to make a piece of clothing (as a test), and it must have gone well because I have now been working here for 6 years. There are always different people coming into the shop with different designs and I can also create a design, that is why I like this job. Every time something new is coming. So it is always different and changing. That is my favourite thing about working here. It is not a boring job, there is always something interesting coming. We are always learning.’
Mayank - Local supplier of all our wonderful bedsheets.
Abdul Reham - Supplier and weaver of linens, silks and cottons.
The Tailoring Project - I have recently started a collaboration with a local NGO ‘Learn for Life’ and their Tailoring Project. Learn for Life is a non-profit organisation which aims to give a non-formal education to a group of children from a very poor area.
They also recently set up a Tailoring Project for disadvantaged local women. The aim of this is to train up women who wouldn’t be working otherwise, to have the skills that lead them into the world of work and to be economically independent. In Indian traditional society tailoring is considered a 'man's' job, and therefore to acquire professional tailoring skills as a women is truly empowering.
I went to visit the women learning to sew, and the children in the school - and was overwhelmed by how friendly everyone was, and obviously very happy to be there.
Since visiting the school I have been donating £1 of every online sale towards the Tailoring Project. And now we have a very exciting collaborative project happening. I am going to producing a very exclusive range of playsuits, made by these women from the Tailoring Project. I will pay them directly, and this will go towards their annual salary which is set up for everyone involved.