Meet Ismail our main partner and owner of Brothers collection! Without this man Lucy & Yak would have never been born! He's also great at making sure Chris has enough Chai at all times :)
Ismail and Chris
Anita (above) & Guddi (below) are both sisters and 2 of our lovely tailors that Ismail trained
Raju is one of Ismail's oldest friends and has worked with us since the beginning, he is the joker of the team and always makes everyone laugh!
Brothers Collection is really where our story begins. Its owned by 2 brothers, Ismail and Peeru. We met Ismail by chance early in 2017. His brother Muneer was the chef at a hotel we were staying at in Pushkar, Rajasthan. We had spent a few weeks working with tailors to find one that ticked all the boxes, but after working with 8 tailors, we weren't feeling that connection that we knew we wanted. One made good clothes but didn't seem to value his staff. Another was a lovely boss but just could not get our order right.
On the brink of giving up, Muneer suggested we visit his brother Ismail. We hadn't found anyone to make our main piece, DUNGAREES, so with our last ounce of energy we decided to have one last meeting.
We took a rikshaw out to Ismail and Muneers home in Tilora, about 10km outside of Pushkar, to meet Ismail and take a look at his "factory". We were shocked to find Ismail had just 3 sewing machines that himself and his 2 friends, DP and Raju, made small orders on. They didn't have much work so Ismail was really enthusiatic to see us. He had this "nothings a problem" and "don't worry about the price" attitude that we hadn't really experienced in India and it blew us away.
We worked with Ismail for a few hours on our signature piece and on the second sample, he absolutely nailed it. Which is amazing when you realise that we are totally not designers and can't really draw. We had to just describe what we want. Which was fine because it turns out that Ismail is a tailoring wizard!
The most important thing here though was not the garment itself, but the relationship Ismail had with his team. He shared our values completely, he believed that everyone should benefit from something they have personally made. How his businesses was set up made it possible to give the tailors a fair share of the money that the factory earned. Ismail took 100% payment, gave 50% straight to the tailor that made the garment, and used the other 50% to pay bills, buy materials, and whatever was left was what he and his family shared. His model remains the same to this date, meaning we know how much each tailor makes. Ismail's tailors are some of the highest (if not the highest) paid tailors in India. Every factory we have met since has expressed that they are earning far too much. Each tailor earns between 20,000 - 40,000 rupees per month depending on the hours they work. To put this into perspective the state minimum is around 8,000 rupees per month, with the average earnings in the North of India being 14,000 rupees (indeed).
This was all early 2017, at the time of writing this Ismail employs 45 tailors and 66 people in total, all making, checking and packing Lucy & Yaks full-time. Because Lucy & Yak and Brothers Collection have grown from nothing together, we have been able to have a huge influence on each others business. For example, rural Rajasthan is a very religiously conservative state where women are not often found in the work place. Once we started growing, we raised our concerns with Ismail and he immediately began looking for female tailors or trainee tailors. He now employs 3 female tailors and 5 female checkers. The numbers are low but its a fantastic move in the right direction.
Ismail, Lucy & Chris (our co-founders) are very close, they're friends before they are business partners. They share all of the same values, and speak to each other weekly, Lucy & Chris visit India a few times per year to see the team out there and help them to constantly improve.
Brothers collection is also mostly ran by power from the sun, Ismail installed solar panels really early on, helping to reduce our CO2 emissions. Legend!
Ismail also installed a mini gym on the roof that the tailors can use, this overlooks the beautiful Rajasthan desert, and is shaded by the solar panels. Small start-ups often don't have a lot of spare space to add little perks like this, so it's amazing that he's found a way!
We also get to work very closely with Ismail when setting tailors pay, you can read more about that here.