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Loyal Workshop

When you visit Crave, the selection of beautiful leather satchels and bags on sale may have caught your eye... but do you know the story and heart behind the designs? Created by Loyal Workshop, the bags come all the way from India as part of a programme to help women escape the sex trade in Kolkata, India. The bags are on sale at Crave, and you'll see our staff sporting leather straps on their aprons made by the women of Loyal Workshop.

We talk to Paul and Sarah Beisly, founders of Loyal Workshop, to learn more.

What is Loyal Workshop?
We craft quality ethical leather goods and offer alternative employment to women trapped in the sex trade in Kolkata, India.

Who is part of Loyal Workshop?
Our 18 artisans are women from backgrounds of poverty and trauma who have taken the bold step away from the brothels and become part of our family.

In our workshop in the heart of Kolkata we also have a team of men and women, both Indian nationals and New Zealanders, making up our operations and support staff who keep this business running. This is headed by our founders, New Zealanders Paul and Sarah Beisly.

The Loyal Workshop is bigger than the staff here on the ground though. We are a community, a movement, and we invite you to be part of this movement for freedom with us.

Tell us more about where Loyal Workshop is based and what day to day life is like there.
We are right in the middle of bustling Kolkata, in an area called Bow Bazar. Our workshop is in a 100 year old concrete building perched on the edge of the second largest red-light area in Kolkata, where an estimated 1500-2000 women are still trapped in the sex trade.

New Zealand and India are about as opposite as can be, but our foreign team has found a home in this urban jungle of character, colour and life.

Our work days begin at 10am at the workshop, where our laser cutter whirs away and office staff work at computers on the ground floor. In the upstairs stitching rooms our artisans set themselves up on the floor to hand stitch an item from start to finish.

It's a relaxed environment with lots of chatting while stitching, and we stop work to all come together regularly throughout each day.

At midday we drink cha (sweet milky tea) together, we break for home packed lunches of rice and dal at 2pm, and 5pm is when we head home.

What inspires the designs of your bags?
We believe in keeping it real and simple. Minimalists at heart, our designs are decluttered, with only the bare essentials. Our bags are go-to traveling companions, hand stitched from eco leather so durability and timelessness are built into the design.

What do you hope for the future of Loyal Workshop?
Beautiful things start small. We started with just five employees, we now have 18 artisans and we will continue to grow. The foundation of our business is people and this business exists for them. We hope that our artisans find healing and freedom in a holistic way. And we dream that they will pave the way along the freedom path for many more women to follow in their footsteps.

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