“It’s devastating”: Aussie fashion and homewares brands with suppliers in India show their support


Nancybird leathergoods are designed in Melbourne and manufactured in India. Source: Supplied.

Australian fashion and homewares retailers with suppliers in India are showing their support by raising money and donating to charities, as the second most populated country in the world faces a catastrophic surge of coronavirus cases.

Online clothing and homewares store Sage and Clare has already raised $10,000 of a $15,000 target by selling its popular bathmats. The sales will go toward Give India’s funding for families of those who have died from COVID-19.

“I feel honoured to have such a generous community around me and we’ve been by the computer all day, just watching the numbers rise,” a member of the Sage and Clare team said in an Instagram post on Thursday.

India is currently experiencing the world’s biggest surge in coronavirus infections, which has seen 10 million cases recorded in the space of four months.

As of Wednesday, the country had more than 3.45 million active cases, with 382,315 new cases recorded in the last 24 hours.

However, due to the country’s testing capabilities, experts believe the number is at least five times higher.


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A post shared by Sage and Clare (@sageandclare)

Emily Wright, founder of Melbourne-based leathergoods and clothing brand Nancybird, tells SmartCompany the situation “is devastating”.

“We started hearing about it a little while before it came out in the media because our manufactures in central India were one of the first places to go into lockdown,” she says.

“We were already pretty worried about it, and now it has just gotten so much worse.”

Nancybird works closely with five manufacturers in India, which are a mix of non-profit collective, Fair Trade certified workshops and larger makers.

Wright says she is understanding of the situation in India and is not “pushing anything” on her suppliers.

“We’re only trying to get clear information so we can plan around it,” she says.

During India’s 10-week lockdown last year all of Nancybird’s suppliers closed their factories. Wright says this time a couple of her manufacturers have closed but surprisingly, some of them are still able to be open albeit with restrictions.

“From what I hear, the Indian government is not wanting to close things quite as readily as they did last year,” Wright says.

“I don’t know if that’s the right decision.”

When India’s lockdown shut industries in 2020, thousands of workers left the cities to return to their villages. According to Al Jazeera, a similar exodus is happening again.

“I think that’s maybe why they’re trying to avoid full lockdown this time,” Wright says.

According to Reuters, Indian health ministry data showed deaths rose by a record 3,780 on Wednesday.

The surging number of cases has overloaded the health system and drained critical supplies of medical oxygen.

In response, governments around the world have sent aid to India, including the Australian government, which sent 500 ventilators, as well as 1 million surgical masks, and personal protective equipment.

Olli Ella, a sustainable clothing, toys and homewares brand, also has manufacturers in India and is showing its support by donating to charities and continuing to manufacture with them despite the disruptions.


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A post shared by Olli Ella (@olliella)

“Our hearts are breaking for our community in India,” Olli Ella said in an Instagram post.

“Honestly, we feel helpless, but that won’t stop us from doing what we can to support our partners […] and by personally donating,” it said.

The retailer has also donated $5,000 to Help India Breathe.


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