By encouraging traditional leather artisans to explore recycled rubber and other material, Sudheer Rajbhar is giving them the opportunity to keep their skills alive
What led to the formation of the Chamar Studio?
In Sanskrit, chamar refers to one engaged in the act of removing skin, specifically hide. Part of the Dalit communities of India and ostracized as ‘untouchables’ by the Indian caste system, chamars are traditionally hereditary artisans who work in leather. I set up the Chamar Studio in Mumbai in 2017. The Chamar brand employs leather workers from the chamar community to produce handmade bags and other accessories in different materials, from canvas to recycled rubber and more. The idea is to reutilize the skills and the experience these craftsmen have gained over the course of their life.
What is your brand philosophy?
The word chamar is seen as a discriminatory slur. I started the Foundation Chamar as a space for Dalit artists and artisans to support art and craft; it re-appropriates chamar as an act of pride in resistance, forming a network of communities of artisans across Mumbai. The Chamar Studio brings together hands that democratize design, typography and high fashion in the form of rubber bags crafted by chamars. Through the Chamar brand we are supporting the community economically and giving them visibility. It is the first step to opening a conversation about a too often silenced situation in India and abroad.
What is your design process?
I directly approach artisans and explain my ideas to them. My designs are really simple and minimal, and the artisans can comfortably recreate them.
Read this story in Designindia 114.