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    A community-based project turns the humble cloud into a trendy fashion accessory

    Aplump, fluffy cloud may not mean much to an urban dweller, but to a cotton farmer his crop and harvest depend on it. Once Upon a Doug is a not-for-profit initiative supporting the cause of cotton farming, and is identified by a symbolic cloud keepsake fashioned out of scrap material by the women of Maharashtra’s cotton farming communities. The name Doug is derived from dhug, the Marathi word for cloud. An initiative by No Nasties, a Mumbai-based T-shirt company that uses 100 per cent organic fair trade cotton, along with NGO Chetna Vikas, which works towards the empowerment of women, the cause also has the support of the students of Pearson College London and Pave Internships.
    Not mere fluff
    “When I started No Nasties, we used to give out Tsunamika dolls with our tees. Just like that was a symbol of the Tsunami victims and the rehabilitation associated with it in South India, similarly I wanted to create a symbol that would address the issues of the cotton farmers of India and their community,” explains Apurva Kothari, the founder. The project was started in 2014, with Kothari’s wife Shweta coming up with the cloud design, Chetna Vikas helping to train women workers to make the keepsakes and students and interns of the Pearson College and Pave Internships helping in branding and marketing. According to Kothari, not only is a cloud a symbol of the cotton community, but it also represents the agrarian crisis facing them (the high rates of farmer suicides in the cotton belts) and acts as a concept of hope and freedom. “We not only wanted to make a product, but one that would tell their [farmers’] stories,” he says.
    Change in the air
    Every Doug is made of colourful scrap fabric (sourced from garment factories and recycled T-shirts) and comes with little stitches that denote a silver lining. A thread attached at the back transforms this little symbol into a multi-tasking accessory. Use it to tie your hair, wear it as a brooch or pin it to your backpack. “Carrying around or wearing the cloud might be a small gesture, but it can reach out to a large number of people. We’ve had people tagging us in photos on Instagram where the Doug has been tied to a camel’s neck in Rajasthan or attached to a cycle in Paris,” says the 39-year-old. Currently, a video is also being shot with the women Doug makers—to create a Do-It-Yourself starter kit—which will be up on the official website soon. Assuring complete transparency of funds, Kothari shares, “At present, the women are paid Rs 20 per cloud and make about 100 to 200 in a month. This is a secondary source of income for them. All profits go back into the community.”
    Rs 100 per Doug. Orders taken for a minimum of 50 pieces. Details: onceuponadoug.com
    Amrita Bose

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