Making of the Sari Purses

Photo: Kunal Soni

Photo: Kunal Soni

There is an unofficial recycling system in India, which is rather remarkable when one stops to think of the operation and its scale. Colloquially known as ‘Bhandewalis’ or ‘Chindiwalis’ are the women and men behind this trade, one that is based on an old bartering system that has been around for hundreds of years.

These people travel throughout the country looking to trade, usually kitchen utensils, for old clothes and such. Some of these traders work specifically to collect old Saris, which are then sold to other traders. These middlemen then bring these prized saris (many of them really quite exquisite silk brocades) to the big city markets or take them to their manufacturing contacts.


‘Sari not Sari’ is an effort to give new life to these beautiful textile pieces, whilst also focusing on zero-waste design. The Sari pieces are remnants collected from The Stitching Project, a collective which uses parts of the saris in their own designs. The pieces are collected and sorted, organised in the best way possible in order to assemble the purses so that waste is minimised.

The purses are made at the Udayan Care Skill Centre, a workshop which skills and trains underprivileged women in Greater Noida, India. The workshop also works with other zero-waste designs and methods and believes in women empowerment through fair wages and a safe work environment.

The purses are one of kind, just as the Sari piece!

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Mandish Kalsisari, blog, BTS, recycling, ethical