Clothing Hollywood in Khadi

Shalini Sheth Amin — Founder, Moralfibre

Shalini Sheth Amin is a perfect inspiration to all those who are shying away from entrepreneurship thinking that – Its too late to start now! An architect-turned-entrepreneur, Shalini moved back to Ahmedabad after 22 years and a career spanning thirty-five years spread between India and England. With a deep commitment to principles of environmental and social sustainability, Shalini set up Moralfibre at the age of 53!

Born and educated in Mumbai, Shalini is a chartered architect and has been an Associate Member of Royal Institute of British Architects, London. As an architect, she was closely involved with various aspects of green, energy efficient and sustainable built environment projects. She was passionate about conservation and heritage support of buildings, people and places.

While working she had committed to give equal time for paid and community / charity based work. All through her career she involved herself with research, as well as working on and initiating community based action programs from village level groups, artisans, to international communities.

Moralfibre is a web-based social enterprise.  In keeping with the principles of minimizing carbon footprint, it makes effective use of technology.  Buyers and potential buyers are approached through networks.  They mainly operate in a B2B wholesale marketplace and have an international buyer base.

Shalini’s efforts to bring back Khadi has resulted in the age-old fabric foraying into Hollywood with Moralfibre supplying the fabric for the costumes in the Hugh Jackman-starrer movie — Pan, a latest adaptation of Peter Pan story.

High point in career

“In 2008 I set up Moralfibre — Clothing with a Conscience with the goal to give a new identity to Khadi fabric for today’s generation. Khadi is an age-old fabric making technology. I have been working to re-invent and promote this traditional hand crafted fabric making industry that supports thousands of spinners and weavers – mainly women – living in remote villages and those who have limited chances of earning their livelihood.  Khadi making is decentralized home-based work which does not use electricity or heavy chemicals. It can give life of dignity to millions of people and all this is possible without costing the earth!

There were several hurdles, road blockages and resistance from established forces and apathy of people. There was a lot to learn, develop and share with others.

I am pleased to see that we have slowly created a quiet revolution in Gujarat. Within five years, Moralfibre has played a pioneering role in the re-invention, revival and creation of the next generation of this almost forgotten fabric making technology and, it is finding regular buyers internationally.

At a global level re-inventing Khadi making has even greater significance.

Most challenging assignment so far

“There have been many challenges.  Being a professional woman, working and managing family, children and balancing life are the usual ones. Having lived in different places and a family with varied influences, the life long assignment is to remain open, keep learning, supporting and giving.

I feel the bigger challenges are not what one does but how one approaches any assignment. How do I work it so that, along with meeting its requirements, I attempt to open doors and create a path for personal growth and higher purpose?!

I have learnt that one should work with full commitment but stay detached regarding the outcome. The right frame of mind will create right context and that would result in taking right path.”

Greatest inspiration

“Our family had a close association with Mahatma Gandhi, and India’s Freedom Struggle. Mrs Indumati Chimanlal, my late aunt and mentor was a freedom fighter and an ardent supporter of Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas and programs for constructive development. She was the first Education minister of State of Gujarat. Along with her pioneering work in education and women’s empowerment, she was a lifelong worker and promoter of Khadi fabrics and, the ethical, moral and social values the movement generated.

My mother passed away when I was ten years old and it was my dear aunt who became my mother. I was fortunate to have been brought up and influenced by strong, committed, independent women in my life. Inspired by them, I have learnt to work with honesty and inner strength.

Moralfibre is my way of connecting with her and taking forward her pioneering work of women empowerment and Khadi.

Most important milestone in life

“One of the latest milestones is that Moralfibre has supplied fabrics to three Hollywood films.  Our fabric was seen by one of the sourcing agents for a film in London and she got in touch with us. She was very pleased when she heard about the social and environmental sustainability credentials of these fabrics.

Jacqueline Durran the Oscar winning costume designer for ‘Pan’ says: “When working on the costumes for the upcoming film “Pan” for Warner Brothers, I was looking for fabrics to use on the principal character “Hook”. In the movie, Hook is discovered working in a mine, and the style of his costume is based on 19th century American miner’s clothing. Finding fabrics that look authentically 19th century is very difficult. When we chanced upon Moralfibre we were delighted!”

Women are the better halves. What does it mean?

“I am a woman and I face the same challenges as any other woman or man!  I am for equality and not for gender conflicts. So far women’s contribution as heading organizations or as larger decision makers have not been put in practice much. When women get to these positions they do add their perspective and approach to work which nothing but enhances to quality of outcome. I would like to think that women are the ‘half’ that are under utilized. When more women come to the table it completes the circle and the organization as a whole becomes better!”