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When Craft Marries Communities: Javaid Ahmed Wani’s Innovation in Leather

June 26, 2018

 

Javaid Ahmad Wani moved to Nepal in 1992, with his friend Firdous Ahmad Bhat, to join a workshop that employed Kashmiri artisans. “I grew up with Firdous. He’s not just my friend, he’s like a brother. We played together, ran together, ate together. And then we moved to Kathmandu together. We were employed with J. A. Khan. Firdous did crewel work, and I worked as a tailor. Communal riots started spreading, and we had to turn back home, after over a decade there.”

 

 

“There was no going back. I had to start from scratch. I did what I knew best how to: working with Firdous. I rented a shop next to my house. It’s smaller than the back of a tempo van. I do tailoring, and I offer mobile plans and SIM cards. Random, isn’t it? We have to survive somehow, feed our children.”

 

Wani joined Commitment to Kashmir (CtoK) in July, 2017, in hopes of gaining more exposure for his leather business. “Inspite of having been an artisan for over 20 years, I knew my skill levels were low. I needed direction. I haven’t been disappointed with the exposure I have been offered. Firstly, I attended a leather workshop at NIFT, Delhi, for 6 days. I learnt the importance of planning required in terms of sizing, pattern making, and hardware details. I did 2 exhibitions at Dastkar. I’ve understood that good products will fetch me good money. I hadn’t even thought to invest in high quality raw materials before, because I never thought it made sense. I didn’t think it would sell. The bags and accessories I made would retail for just INR 200. I know better now.”

 

Wani has been progressing with his ambitions under the mentorship of Harpreet Padam, who is pushing him to experiment with pattern making, product lines, and designs. “Padam ji has been a wonderful guide, he is the one who made me realise the importance of quality testing. We visited raw material suppliers in Delhi, and have established a link to procure materials from there. I got the opportunity to see such amazing tools, ones that we don’t have exposure to in Kashmir. We were helped so much, I’m truly grateful. It is through him that I’ve become this open to new developments. I want to sell my products nationally now.”

 

“Kashmiris are not poor, because we have the spirit of generosity. We have seen troubles, so we know to help others out. But it is time to stop surviving, and start living. CtoK has ignited a new fire in me, and many others. I am keen to learn marketing soon, and am hoping to keep getting more exposure through them. The organisation is just here to start the process for us, then we are on our own. But this time, we’ll be ready for what is to come.”

 

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