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IRO IRO launches Sarai, a Celebration of the Elevated Craftsmanship of India

Sarai by IRO IRO Zero Waste

Jaipur based zero-waste design collective, IRO IRO launched its new digital platform, Sarai by IRO IRO this summer.

The platform, launched via Instagram (@saraibyiroiro) on the Independence Day weekend, seeks to change the way we; creators, designers, and community, address conversations and attitudes around craft and the value of handmade.

As a platform, Sarai showcases the elevated craftsmanship of India, the uniqueness of narrative it provides, and the solidarity of people who design these products. It is a place where we have conversations about pushing innovation in crafts and ascribe new value the one-of-a-kind products that are made in collaboration by artisans and custodians of culture, through an in-depth inspection of the processes, biographies, skills, and people that these material products embody. It is a space that encourages a rethinking of our economic and consumerist practices, and makes a case for a shift to a circular economy.

Picture courtesy: Sarai by IRO IRO

"The aim of Sarai is to also generate revenue for these crafts on the basis of their value and not on the basis of the “scale”, and so our month-long series of immersive discussions, behind-the-scenes-tours, and Instagram takeovers, culminated in the first Sarai Digital Auction, where brands from across the country, participated to diversify the conversation to include their fields of expertise.", said the team behind Sarai.

The first objective of the auction was to introduce our audience to these fantastic innovators and their work, and second, to raise funds for their supply chain- the craftspeople, artisans, and small farmers that they work with.

Picture courtesy: Sarai by IRO IRO

Six brands contributed to the first edition. These were:

Sarang Sena Studio (@sarangsenastudio)

Pick From Pulp (@pickfrompulp)

IRO IRO (@iroirozerowaste)

Marc’s Coffees (@marcscoffees)

The Big Eyed Collagist (@thebigeyed_collagist)

and Awdhesh Kumar (@khushiram_pandey)

A persistent theme engulfed the first edition of Sarai by IRO IRO- that the romanticisation of craft is a hindrance to its longevity in the current century. When the conversation about crafts is usually initiated, it is limited to conservation or revival. Craft is seen as something that cannot be traditionally “scaled-up”. Ironically, that is exactly what is being thrust upon and expected out of artisanal enterprises. Artisanal products are being designed to suit the mass consumerist and fast fashion behaviour, which creates no space to push innovation within a craft, where most craftspeople might be forced to make cheaper products and in compromised qualities, therefore depleting their quality of life and the perception of handcrafted, and in the long-term, its survival.

Picture courtesy: Sarai by IRO IRO

In reality, crafts are a leeway into innovation, and pushing innovation within a craft is the only way for it to state its relevance and importance in our lives today.

"With our first edition, we saw our unique participating brands and artists doing just that- whether it was paper textiles, photography from 1850’s, upcycling waste through crafts and knowledge indigenous to India, functional art pieces crafted for home through long hours of block printing, coffee made with indigenous Indian coffee beans or collages messaging social and political upheaval. All six brands showcased in our first cycle are pushing innovation in a certain craft in their own unique manner, creating local robust systems that stand tall during the turmoil of the pandemic and create financial stability not only for themselves but for all their stakeholders, and in doing so, create a better quality of life for everyone." added the founder of Sarai, Bhaavya Goenka.

Picture courtesy: Sarai by IRO IRO

This edition has laid the foundation for strong, engaging, proactive conversation and action. The brands that were collaborated with have opened their (virtual) doors to a digital community, and highlighted the realities of their work and the intricacies of their ecosystems. This has empowered the Sarai community to ascribe a human face to a brand, and has paved the path for more meaningful, longer-term engagement.

"We have also had the chance to survey the responses to this first edition of the auction, and this will help us determine future strategy for our next edition. The support that we have received over the internet- from people who are now our Sarai Stakeholders- has only bolstered our conviction that this is the right time to have this conversation, to challenge extant systems, and to brainstorm and co-create new replacements.", the Sarai team explained.

Picture courtesy: Sarai by IRO IRO

Sarai by IRO IRO is a long-term, ongoing project. The Instagram handle (@saraibyiroiro) shall continue to host online events and challenges - which, when the conditions permit, shall translate into physical events- and it is theri hope to launch their the second edition of the digital auction later this winter.





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