I first met Vera Markova, one of the co-founders of ethical Indian accessories and homewares store Devifair, when she was interning at Hubud, my old coworking space in Ubud, Bali. Photographer, marketer, writer, she drilled me often on whatever I was working on, always learning, she had the air of someone who was going to do something important and interesting in the world.
Fast forward a few years, Vera, originally from Russia, now lives in Berlin, travelling the world often with her boyfriend Tomass (also ex-Hubud), the two work from their laptops as they explore. On a trip to Jodhpur in Northern India in 2018, they came across a woman with an inspiring vision, Nanda Bohra.
Nanda Bohra, above, at the door to her workshop in Jodhpur, India.
Nanda is the founder, owner and chief designer of a small textile business producing and selling beautiful handmade bags and homewares. She employs widowed local women to help her to make her designs come to life in her workshop in Jodhpur, India.
Nanda came up with the idea for the workshop after a friend of hers faced the societal shunning standard for widowed women in India. Female widowers are often cast out, forced to live behind the closed doors of an ashram, with no means to support the children they are left to feed on their own. Nanda seeks to help these women realise their own power, providing them with a channel to support their families.
Women working in Nanda's workshop in Jaipur.
Since Vera and Tomass founded Devifair in 2018 after a chance meeting with Nanda in a local market, 75 women now work to produce the orders, making all the beautiful bags, cushion covers and throw blankets you see in Devifair’s online Etsy shop. The women who work in this shop in Jodhpur are paid a fair living wage and can now send their kids to school, pay medical bills and rely on a regular income for their families.
Nanda is also the founder of a small NGO supporting women’s empowerment in India, an incredibly male-centric country where women too often experience a lack of personal freedom and power over their lives. A portion of the funds Nanda receives through Devifair also goes towards free workshops—from sanitation and hygiene to self-defence—for the women of Jodhpur and its neighbouring villages.
Devifair has set up a sustainable channel between this small workshop in Jodhpur, India and the world, connecting western buyers hungry for a piece of something beautiful and unique in their home or wardrobe, with skilled Indian craftswomen making intricately decorated treasures. This system honours the truth of each of our own power, the power of women in a society that tries to take it away. We all vote with our dollars, why not use yours to support an organisation that empowers women?
You’ll find brightly coloured, embroidered and bejewelled yoga bags, shoulder bags (mine has become my new everyday laptop/work bag), clutches, bum bags, throw blankets, table coverings and wall hangings in Devifair’s Etsy shop. A few of my favourite pieces in the shop and a little shoot Ula Blocksage and I did on a sunny afternoon in Paris around the Place de la Concorde before I left for India follow…