The IOU Project is based in Madrid, Spain and founded by Kevita Parmar. Parmar works predominantly with hand loomed madras cotton out of India, known for its distinct, often candy-colored checks, specific and unique to each weaver. Sass Brown explains, “Kevita Parmar works with locally grown cotton from that region that is then hand-woven, a fabric that has literally no carbon footprint to begin with. Moreover, she really honors the makers, whether it's the maker of the garment or the weaver of the fabric as a truly vital component of her value chain of the garment. And as equal in terms of standing as the designer or the customer.” She emphasizes, “it's a very flat, democratic program or company, not hierarchical, where the designers are at the top and the makers at the bottom.”
Additionally, The IOU Project centers around its website, where each item that is featured is beautifully presented and includes information about each garment. For example, you can learn who the weaver was and even see a video of their process. Sass Brown states, “It's very much about authorship and provenance and respect for all of the components that go into making the garment and giving a face and a voice to each of those people, who are normally so hidden from the customer.” Additionally, Kevita will include stories and learning around the role of the materials and the weavers to the local economy or country they are working in.
Parmar isn’t necessarily interested in pushing a modern aesthetic on the output of the people she works with. As Brown points out, “madras itself is quite traditional, created through traditional processes from traditional fabrications and fibers. There's a certain amount of creative freedom that each weaver has, which is also quite unique. It's not predetermined, in terms of final colors.” She continues, “In fact, part of the beauty of that material culture is the differentiation of output from different families and locations.”
Sass Brown also points out that despite the lack of mass replication in craft, it is often underestimated in terms of its capability and scale. “For example, 20 million families depend on hand weaving in India. That is an incredible scale that in Kevita's case, she has utilized. So this isn't a tiny little brand that produces one off designs. Yes, pieces are unique because the weavings are slightly different; the colorations are different, but within the format of madras cotton.” She emphasizes, “the idea of scaling craft and utilizing existing scale is quite special and quite unique, bringing livelihoods to many more people.”
Besides sourcing the fabric from India, Kevita Parmar specializes in small workshops in Portugal and Spain. What’s more she is known to use other traditional materials such as Harris tweeds, or mud silk, both with their own distinct heritage and historis. And she is also a co-founder of the textile festival Xtant that showcases and sells handcrafted textiles and products from around the world. This ability to connect the dots between small craftspeople and artisans from across the world, and provide new opportunities for collaboration, has earned Kevita the moniker of “craft revivalist” by Elle magazine.