As did so many people in those early days, Valerie
came to Auroville from the U.K. full of dreams but with empty pockets,
having left England and her secretarial job in 1975 to join Auroville.
In order to stay here and provide for herself, and simultaneously give
to Auroville, she had to find ways to generate money. Seeing the poverty
in India, she felt she should do something that created employment for
the local people. As she had always liked fashion and clothing, she
started a handicraft unit in her garden making simple cross-stitch dresses
with ladies from the local village. "The balance between taking
from and giving to the people is important," she found and, some
years later, working together with another Aurovilian, Valerie initiated
the unit Filaure and moved to a thatched hut in Auromodele.
The last decade
Filaure continued to develop a collection of children's
garments and clothing for adults, with the result that some eleven years
ago enough funds were generated to build a decent workshop and move
to the Industrial Zone. There, in 'Auroshilpam', close to other units
of Auroville, the unit now employs 40 local people with another 20 or
so in a village building during peak periods. All are adults, as it
is against Auroville's policy to employ children anywhere in Auroville.
Nearly all positions in Filaure are occupied by local Tamil workers,
who are involved in everything from pattern making, cutting, tailoring,
quality control and export management. Besides Valerie, there are four
other Aurovilians working at Filaure. Tashi a Tibetan, taking care of
quality control and designing appliqués & embroidery for the childrens
garments. Gabi from Germany is responsible for the overall design of
the patterns. Michael from U.K. who is responsible for financial matters
& computer systems and Sarala a local Tamilian, looks after the
quality control of the tailors' stitching.
Filaure has just purchased a specialised computer system for designing
of garments and pattern printing. This is a wonderful and stimulating
new tool usually only found in much larger factories. In the future
Valerie plans to offer a specialised garment design and pattern making
service over the web which would be an exiting new step in the growth
Third world shops
Filaure uses only materials and fabrics from India, mostly cottons with
no chemical dyes, and tries to stay as natural as possible. "From
the start we never had a problem to find clients. We don't want to be
a mass producer, so we never take more orders than we can manage to
handle as quality is most important for us," says Valerie. Their
main export market is Germany, where they largely work with organisations
who contribute their profits to the third world countries and to the
environment, such as the WWF.
New boutique at Visitors Centre
This autumn, a new boutique is opening at the Visitors Centre together
with the other Auroville units Auromics, Shradanjali, Flame and Miniature.
Filaure will present its natural clothes in a harmonious new atmosphere
to the visitors.
Valerie enjoys her work: "I like the East-West relationships very
much. The West has the capacity for organisation, while the East has
all these fabulous handicraft skills. It's a good masala mix."