Our History

Since its inception in 1984, Creative Handicrafts has evolved into a Fair Trade organization with a view to changing the world, one woman at a time.


Here’s a quick timeline of how the organization got to where it is today.

  • 1984

    Getting started

    Sister Isabel Martin begins working with 2 women in a Mumbai slum sewing soft toys. With assistance from Jeevan Nirvaha Niketan she goes on to establish the Women’s Self Employment Cooperative (WSEC) with another 7 women.

    Women's self-help group

  • 1990

    A permanent workplace

    A church donates a room in the slums to WSEC, providing a permanent place to work. Until then they shuffled between temporary premises at churches and schools with their sewing machines. The membership grew to 30.

  • 1992

    Cooperative formed

    Women first organized into cooperative groups.

  • 1994

    Non-profit registration

    Creative Handicrafts is officially registered as a Non-profit Trust with around 4 members.

    Woman painting eyes on a doll

  • 1996

    First exports

    Using Sister Isabel's contacts in Europe, Creative Handicrafts exports products to Spain and France for the first time.

  • 1997

    Childcare center

    Childcare center opened to accommodate the children of women working with the Cooperative.

  • 1998

    Education sponsorship

    Natalia Campo (a Spanish volunteer) started the Education Sponsorship scheme to improve educational outcomes for children in the community.

  • 1999

    A sharper business focus

    Johny Joseph joins the team to manage the business. This marked the beginning of a sharper focus on business outcomes. Turnover quickly increases. There were around 60 women in the Cooperative at the time.

    Creative Handicrafts in its early days

  • 2000

    Asli Food launches

    Asli Food packed lunch service is established - an initiative to provide employment opportunities for women who aren’t able to sew.

    Asli Foods roti packed into tiffen containers

  • 2001

    Credit and Savings groups begin

    Credit and Savings groups created to help the women to create a habit of saving and to stay out of debt.

  • 2001

    Changing business focus

    The organization begins changing focus from making soft toys toward manufacturing garments. Pedal sewing machines are replaced with electric ones, increasing productivity and quality.

    Creative Handicrafts upgraded to electric sewing machines

  • 2004

    Retail shop opens in Mumbai

    Creative Handicrafts' first retail shop opens in Mumbai. The first apparel designer is hired. 90 women are working in the Cooperative.

  • 2005

    Joining the Fair Trade movement

    Registered with Fair Trade Network (WFTO and FTFI) - an acknowledgment of Creative Handicrafts social purpose.

  • 2004

    Turning a profit

    Passed the break-even point and became a self-sustaining, profitable business.

  • 2011

    Purpose-built premises

    New 3-story, purpose-built premises opened. 250 women now members of the Creative Handicrafts Cooperative.

    Crative Handicrafts purpose-built premises

  • 2013

    Fair Trade Guaranteed

    Passed an external audit to achieve Fair Trade Guaranteed status from the WFTO. This independently verifies that Creative Handicrafts' products are manufactured in Fair Trade conditions.

    Creative Handicrafts - Guaranteed Fair Trade logo

  • 2014

    Certified for organic garment production

    Awarded GOTS organic apparel manufacturing certification.

  • 2017

    Growing strong

    Creative Handicrafts is generating employment for more than 700 women - in both full and part-time work.

    Some of the Creative Handicrafts family