An Indian entrepreneur, whose organic and eco-friendly baby blanket was used by Meghan Markle to wrap up her two-month-old son during a recent outing, has defended the price range and pay of the workers in the Indian factories creating the artisanal range.
The 37-year-old American-actress-turned-royal chose Malabar Baby's USD 42 'Erawan Cotton Dohar' for baby Archie as they went to watch a polo match played by his father, Britain's Prince Harry, in south-east England last month. Some UK media reports zeroed in on the Indian creation chosen by Markle to criticise the very low wages of the workers in Rajasthan who hand-crafted it.
Anjali Harjani, the founder of Hong Kong-headquartered Malabar Baby, has fought back to say that all workers associated with her brand are paid fairly. "Malabar Baby worked hard to research the finest factories, both in terms of quality of craftsmanship but also respect for their staff, to produce our collections," said Harjani, when the claims of low wages in the Indian factories creating the products were addressed to the company.
"Many of the factories it works with go further and are part of a collective that come together to reduce environmental impact and preserve the art of hand block-printing. It works with factories owned by women where staff have been employed for many years, being paid fairly and working in good conditions," she said.
The 'Erawan Cotton Dohar' is sold on the Malabar Baby portal as offering three layers of soft natural cotton sewn together to bring the utmost softness and breathability to a blanket, as part of its wide range of baby products.
The company says it is proud to be preserving the traditional art of block-printing, which goes through many skilled artisan hands. "The dohar blanket takes between five to seven days to make and requires the work of highly skilled pattern cutters and block printers to produce. The dohar is sold for USD 42, which is far less than other similar products but Malabar Baby have maintained the price in order that more children can enjoy it," explained Harjani.
The company was created by the Hong Kong-based entrepreneur and named after Malabar Hills in Mumbai, the area where her family is based.
She struck upon the concept while pregnant herself and found a gap in the market for baby products using natural and organic materials coupled with traditional artisanal techniques, with a focus on sustainability. Markle, a new mother who gave birth to Archie in early May, is known for her inclination towards organic and sustainable products and her choice of a hand-made Indian summer blanket would inevitably have a significant impact on sales of similar products worldwide.
"Malabar Baby is a small, family-run business that prides itself on producing high quality products which are slow made in small batches. Its founder is passionate about encouraging people to buy less and buy better quality, but offering products at an accessible price point so they can be enjoyed by all which is why prices start from USD 18," said Harjani.
Her company uses manufacturing sites across India and China and works off hand-drawn sketches which are traced onto wood and hand-carved to create the block prints.
Its designers come from around the world, including Mumbai, the US and Hong Kong.