Seventeen years ago I was watching the 4th July parade near my home in Evanston, Illinois, when I saw a woman marching in the parade wearing a MarketPlace skirt. I was so excited and felt so proud! But then I started thinking about how I personally had not cut it, or sewn it, or embroidered it. I wished that the women who did all that could have had the chance to see customers wearing what they had created.
That was when we thought of the Global Dialog program. In this program the artisans could ask the customers questions which were printed in the catalog, and the customers could answer. Since this was the era before widespread internet and email, the customers’ letters were mostly handwritten and sent by regular mail. We got tons of responses, some of them many pages long and some enclosing photographs.
Over the years the Global Dialog program changed into something more introspective. The women chose themes that they wanted to explore, and each of these topics became a motif in a MarketPlace catalog. Some of the themes the women discussed were Transitions, Celebrating our differences, Daring to be Different, Beauty: Who Decides? These were all powerful topics but the communication with the customers took a back seat.
In reviewing this program recently, the artisans expressed two wishes: One, they wanted to change the name to reflect the changes in the program; and two, they wanted to know more about the customers.
For two months they tossed around names, eventually narrowing them to 10 possibilities. Then they and the staff in Mumbai and Chicago voted. And so the name was chosen: Darpan. Darpan is “reflection” and the women chose it because it reflects their progress, thinking and hard work and it implies reflection on the past and possibilities of the future for both the artisans and the customers.
And now we want to rekindle the conversation between the artisans and you, the customers. The artisans want to hear from you, see you wearing the products they make, and know more about your lives. Send us your comments, photographs or even a video. Since this is a two-way communication, the artisans will send you a hand-drawn Thank You card from the children of Armaan Club as well as a note. From an individual artisan, mailed from India!
This is going to be a lot of organizing by the artisans but they are looking forward to getting to know you. Please spend a couple minutes to write them a message and send a photograph! Photographs transcend language and are worth more than a thousand words. Be a part of this really empowering program.
Pushpika Freitas, President