• Navmalika Sidhu


Updated: Apr 29

What they make: Handbags, backpacks, wallets and belts.

Where to buy: https://chamar.in

In India, ‘Chamar’ is an ethnic slur used for the Dalit communities that have traditionally worked with leather and in tanneries, ostracized by the caste system. Chamar India, or Chamar Studio as they also call themselves, aims to reclaim the word and use it with pride. After the 2015 beef ban by the government destroyed the jobs of leather workers from Dalit and Muslim communities, artist-activist Sudheer Rajbhar started looking around for a material that could replace leather and help these artisans restart their work. The circular design house brings together the timeless skills of these craftsmen and a contemporary aesthetic with new-age materials to create a conscious brand.



Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Chamar Studio uses a recycled rubber material made from industry leftovers and discarded rubber products, which has a texture that’s really close to leather. It is waterproof and extremely long-lasting, and doesn’t lose out on its sturdiness even after being recycled. Other materials used as embellishments are also derived from a circular setup, making the products extremely practical for the environment. The raw material is obtained from a factory in Vapi, Gujarat, which recycles tyres, but the specifics are not stated anywhere.



Chamar Studio platforms crafts born of a targeted industry and artisans from an ostracised community. It aims to shift the casteist view of Chamars as untouchables and lend prestige to the community by showcasing their superior craftsmanship. Chamar Studio has also helped leather workers from the Chamar and Muslim communities regain the livelihoods they’d lost following the beef ban, when all the tanneries were shut down. The brand operates from the slums of Dharavi, Mumbai, where the workers live. The handcrafted creations and collections are veritable flags of activism that reflect the realities of social injustice in India. Their latest collection, Mandee Revolt, is a dedication to the farmers’ protests, while their Bayadere collection is an ode to the Devadasis who have long been relegated to the margins of society.



Chamar Studio’s luxury, cruelty-free collections are a simple, minimalistic playground of colours in thoughtful designs. Their gender-neutral products are long-lasting and waterproof, besides being washable. As the materials used are innovative and recycled, the products are not inexpensive, starting at Rs 3,000 and going all the way up to Rs 40,000. While their website is a little tricky to navigate, their designs are a contemporary take on a classic aesthetic, with something for every occasion and purpose.