Finding the Loyal Workshop in the laneways of a semi-hidden part of Kolkata, India is no easy task. It took us three trips following TLW co-founder, Sarah Beisly, before we had any grasp on how to get there. By the end of our week, the residents in Bowbazar were still ushering us in the right direction at every wrong corner we made to take.
We first discovered The Loyal Workshop online, when trawling the internet for a source of fair trade leather, back at the end 2014. We were thinking of making our own leather ware but found a company doing it better than we ever could. We’ve been a loyal stockist ever since.
The Loyal Workshop hand craft a range of belts, old-school satchels, wallets and bracelets. These classic looking but truly unique goods are the proud work of some remarkable women. Ladies from backgrounds of sex slavery, many of the makers of Loyal have survived trafficking and unimaginable hardship. Every 8 seconds, a woman is trafficked in India. In the midst of Kolkata, however, there are a number of Kiwi companies fighting to change this. TLW is one of them. We were lucky enough to spend a few days with the workshop team last month, sharing cha and laughter.
Arriving at the workshop with our limited Bangla, we were greeted with shy and smiling faces. We were invited to share the Monday morning ritual of a weekend debrief and songs before the ladies set to work. Over the next two days, we would take a series of instax portraits, learn to sew a beginners’ coaster, teach a stand up yoga class, sand a bathroom, brainstorm a mural and help to present roses for International Women’s Day. The Loyal team feel like a family, headed by their co-founders Sarah & Paul who are two of the best people we’ve ever met.
Although we didn’t share a common language, we loved hanging out with the amazing ladies of TLW with the confident personalities which have grown from their time under the workshop roof. When you support a fair trade business, you are acknowledging that every life has equal value. When you support businesses such as The Loyal Workshop, you are helping to secure freedom.