An Interview with Drakshan Khan of Purple Impression (Part One)

Purple Impression is a Fair trade brand that aims to bring people together through art and fashion. They work with women artisans in Pakistan who hand embroider the designs. Their goal is to provide them with employment, fair pay and direct access to broader market giving them an opportunity to educate their children and become financially independent.

Young girls learning how to embroider and sew at an artisans home

Young girls learning how to embroider and sew their own clothes at an artisan’s home

Tell us about yourself – familial/personal story, education, and prior work.

I like to introduce myself as a mom and a global citizen who is a hybrid of many cultures. I was born in Pakistan, and grew up in Dubai and the United States. I studied Finance and Economics from Kent State University, Ohio and started my career in banking, and then moved to Marketing Strategist role for an interior design firm in California. After having children, I took a break from work while keeping myself involved in philanthropic work that benefited women and children.

How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion?

I believe that the concept of conscious consumerism was something that was brewing inside of me since childhood. Having lived in different countries around the world, I have witnessed firsthand the loss of traditional crafts, exploitation of workers and the effects of fast fashion on the factory workers and the planet. Rana Plaza was a wake up call that shook me to the core. I knew I had to take action and do something. I channeled my anger into doing something about women’s development. This lead me to my parents’ hometown in Pakistan that has a rich culture of hand embroidery done by women, who despite an amazing talent find it hard to make ends meet often due to exploitation from local middlemen.

 Asma, the maker of the Asma boyfriend shirt. The mission is always to connect you with the makers of your clothes so there's always a name and a face with your pieces connecting you with it.

Asma, the maker of the Asma boyfriend shirt. The mission is always to connect you with the makers of your clothes so there’s always a name and a face with your pieces connecting you with it.

What is the importance of the idea of ethical and sustainable fashion to you?

My background in economics has turned me into an activist for conscious consumption and socially responsible businesses. I am a big fan of Muhammad Yunus and would like to quote one of his sayings:

In my experience, poor people are the world’s greatest entrepreneurs. Every day, they must innovate in order to survive. They remain poor because they do not have the opportunities to turn their creativity into sustainable income.

The Fashion industry employs 57.8 million people globally. Imagine the impact on these lives if every garment worker was paid ethically for their work. This is why ethical and sustainable fashion are extremely important and there is a need to push for more education and transparency in this industry.

What about ethical and sustainable fashion designers and companies?

It is so wonderful to see the amount of ethical companies growing. Consumers are asking for variety and it’s nice to be able to provide people with alternatives that cater to their taste while benefiting the makers. So I am really excited to see this industry grow.

Sobia in Pakistan making the tribal scarf

Sobia in Pakistan making the tribal scarf

What is Purple Impression?

Purple Impression is a socially responsible high fashion brand that employs women artisans in Pakistan who hand embroider our designs.

What are some of its feature products?

Our hand embroidered scarves definitely stand out anywhere because of their craftsmanship and vibrant colors. They make the perfect accessory because the rich embroidery of the scarf really draws people, which makes it a statement piece. Additionally, we just launched our Nomad Tee with the intention to bring people together through art and fashion. It is a collaboration of three different artists. A San Francisco based designer Elaine Hamblin, Iranian Calligrapher Arash Shirinbab, and our artisans work has been fused into the tee to spread the message of Peace, Love and Unity.

What makes it unique?

Everything we design and create always has a meaning and a purpose. By fusing the traditional hand embroidery from one of the oldest cities in the world (Multan, Pakistan), our designers in San Francisco are able to create exclusive, hand crafted pieces while preserving this dying art. Each garment comes hand signed by its maker, often showing the construction through videos. We want our customers to build a sense of connection with their garment, which adds meaning to their wardrobe.

Also, in line with our commitment to sustainability we try and work with natural, recycled fabric, create minimal to zero waste by using hand cutting techniques that utilize selvage edge within the design and incorporate creative hand embroidery techniques that make use of leftover fabrics.

Stained glass scarf by Purple Impression

Stained glass scarf by Purple Impression

Who tend to be the customer base?

We have a global customer base. Women who are well traveled. That care about the rights of other women and want to support the global artisan sector.

What advice would be of use to new business owners?

For new business owners, you should definitely have a component of education in your business strategy because even though the ethical fashion movement is growing there is still a need to educate consumers about why it matters and the impact sustainable fashion has on its makers and the planet.


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About the Author

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping and gardening, and runs In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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