Bhalo (Bengali for'good') is an Australian ethical fashion label produced in rural Bangladesh that creates limited edition garments using natural hand woven textiles, printing and embroidery. Through our work we explore ideas of communicating process, tempo, skill and test and both the limitations and value of hand-making.
In 2008 Jessica Priemus and Shimul Minhas Uddin met working at a charity in Dhaka. Shimul was the Operations Manager of a Bangladeshi charity and Jess was a designer from Australia looking for a challenge. Together they decided to use their unique experiences and skills to create a label that would support and sustain rural producers and artisans in Bangladesh.
Since starting in 2009 the award-winning emerging label has gathered both Australian and international attention, being featured in many leading magazines, newspapers and TV shows. Bhalo has participated in 7 runway shows, 3 exhibitions and produced 9 major collections.
Our brand philosophy is to connect the wearer to the garment, establishing a connection and empowering our customers to know the origins of the clothes they are purchasing. We believe that this form of transparency is crucial to encouraging people to make ethical decisions towards the things that we acquire in our lives, clothing included. One of the ways we are doing this is through video, linking each garment to a video of the piece being made.
Bhalo is manufactured by Thanapara Swallows Development Society’s handicraft section, in Rajshahi, Bangladesh. Thanapara Village is located in north-western Bangladesh on the riverbank of the Padma (Ganges). During the liberation period in 1971, this quiet and peaceful village was transformed when the opposing army suddenly invaded the village and killed over 100 unarmed men. With the destruction of the male heads of household, the families in the village faced certain destitution and hopelessness. In 1974 a primary school for children and a handicraft program for the war-affected women of the village were started with the help of a Swedish charity group, encouraging self-sustainability and funding variety of programs to assist the remaining women in the village.
Today the handicraft program at Thanapara is independently run and has 168 permanent producers, and is predominantly women. The organization is an internationally approved member of the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO), ECOTA Fair Trade Forum (Bangladesh), and Bangla Crafts. The organization adheres to WFTO’s 10 principles of fair trade. All staff are aware of the meaning of fair trade and are (anonymously) surveyed regularly on the company’s adherence to the principles.
The program assists many poor and underprivileged people, mostly women, by providing training and jobs, as well as a number of community programs. These programs include aiming to eradicating illiteracy, creating health awareness and self-employment, educating people about land rights, and empowering women by creating economic and social awareness towards a number of issues.
By providing work within villages it also gives people less reason to migrate to Dhaka. This is turn keeps families together and reduces the stress on an already exploding city where where 500,000 people migrate annually from rural areas seeking employment or education, and often end up living in slums. Because Bhalo works in rural and remote areas, things like electricity and technology are not always available, which is why we focus on hand made garments. This allows isolated people to make a living without having to outlay large amounts of money for machinery or generators. The shifting nature of the garment industry has led to a loss of employment for rural people in Bangladesh so Bhalo wanted to support local artisans, to keep the traditional techniques alive and to keep families together.