In the remote landscapes of Ladakh, where the air is crisp and the mountains stand tall, a silent revolution is underway. Over 450 women from 16 villages have joined hands to form “Looms of Ladakh,” a farm-to-fashion collective that is not only redefining the way Ladakhi Pashmina is brought to the world but also rewriting the narratives of empowerment and entrepreneurship.
The Journey Begins:
The story of Looms of Ladakh traces back to 2013 when Abhilasha Bahuguna, fueled by a vision of organized and empowered artisans, posted a thought-provoking question on social media. Little did she know that this would be the spark that ignited a journey of resilience and determination.
Enterprising Spirit in the Mountains:
The catalyst for this transformative initiative came from an unexpected quarter—her husband, G Prasanna, an IAS officer. During his tenure as deputy commissioner in Leh in 2015, Prasanna encountered a group of women from Chumur village showcasing their knitted Pashmina socks. Inspired by their enterprising spirit in the challenging terrain of Ladakh, he initiated Project Laksal, a skill development program benefiting 150 women.
A Cooperative in the Making:
Unlike other regions, Ladakh lacked textile clusters for Pashmina, and traditional skills were passed down through generations for personal use. Recognizing the potential of a cooperative, Bahuguna and her team faced initial hurdles when registering it in 2017. However, fueled by a shared vision, the women of Looms of Ladakh overcame local resistance and ran the cooperative independently for four years.
The Power of Unity:
The initial lack of external funding turned out to be a blessing, as it compelled the women to come together, source their own raw materials, and produce goods for local tourists. Through collaboration, they elected a management team, learned new skills like weaving and tailoring, and participated in exhibitions to gain exposure.
A Global Aspiration:
In 2018, Bahuguna’s encounter with Ermene Zildo Zegna, CEO of the Italian luxury cashmere brand Zegna, sparked an aspiration for Looms of Ladakh to become a global luxury brand. Recognizing the need for high-quality skills, embroidery, and fabric, the women began a journey toward excellence.
Scaling with Support:
By the fifth year, the cooperative had become proficient in its operations, prompting them to seek investors. The NAB Foundation of NABARD extended support, sanctioning Rs 1 crore in 2022. This funding facilitated the establishment of a decentralized solar-heated studio on the India-China border.
From Pastoralists to Artisans:
Many members of Looms of Ladakh are herders from pastoralist communities who supply raw materials. The Pashmina, sourced from altitudes of 4,000-5,000m, undergoes a meticulous process of dehairing, carding, washing, cleaning, and dyeing. The cooperative follows a hub-and-spoke model, with central quality control in Leh and decentralized manufacturing in Chushul, Kargil, and Leh.
A Stepping Stone to Luxury:
Looms of Ladakh’s success reflects in its flagship store in Leh and its presence in select Taj Hotels across India. The cooperative’s products have even graced the Oculus Store at the World Trade Center in New York, with plans to expand internationally. The recent launch of the social initiative label “Perak” aims to create a sustained source of livelihood and pave the way for luxury garments.
A Tale of Empowerment:
Through its journey, Looms of Ladakh has not only produced exquisite Pashmina products but has also empowered women to become independent and confident. The initiative has garnered support from various quarters, including the Indian Army and ICICI Bank, making it a beacon of inspiration in the picturesque valleys of Ladakh.
As Looms of Ladakh continues to weave dreams and break barriers, it stands as a testament to the transformative power of unity, determination, and the entrepreneurial spirit that flourishes even in the most challenging terrains.
Statement – Looms of Ladakh: Empowering Women, Weaving Dreams
Madhav Fashion, a leader in the world of embroidery fabric manufacturing, commends the inspirational journey of Looms of Ladakh and its remarkable impact on empowering women artisans in the remote landscapes of Ladakh. We salute the collective spirit and entrepreneurial zeal that has fueled this farm-to-fashion initiative, bringing Ladakhi Pashmina to the global stage.
As a brand committed to quality craftsmanship and innovation, Madhav Fashion recognizes the importance of initiatives like Looms of Ladakh in preserving traditional skills and fostering economic independence. The dedication of over 450 women from 16 villages is not just a story; it’s a testament to the transformative power of collaboration and determination.
Madhav Fashion takes pride in supporting and celebrating such initiatives that contribute to the growth and empowerment of artisans. The journey of Looms of Ladakh is an inspiration to the entire fashion industry, emphasizing the significance of ethical and sustainable practices.
We extend our best wishes to Looms of Ladakh and hope that their success continues to pave the way for more sustainable and empowering practices in the world of fashion. Madhav Fashion remains committed to promoting and partnering with endeavors that embody the spirit of creativity, community, and positive change.