We have been lucky enough to sit down with the wonderful Harjit from Jewelled Buddha today. Talking about everything from jewellery and the impact on mental health it can have. Not just wearing it, but the journey in creating a small business and how it can help others. Ethical, eco friendly and truly stunning this jewellery is making a difference.
This is also another opportunity to enter our wonderful launch competition with prizes worth over £1800!!
Please can you introduce yourself and Jewelled Buddha.
I’m Harjit, founder of Jewelled Buddha – an ethical fashion brand that empowers women with beautiful artisanal fashion that supports livelihoods, heritage crafts and communities.
What drove you to create Jewelled Buddha?
I never planned to run a business. It just never crossed my mind! But when I quit my job in the city and went travelling around Asia for a year with my husband, everything changed.
It all started when I found myself in a job I hated in the corporate finance sector. It wasn’t really where I wanted to be. I’d previously worked in creative marketing roles and I was so much happier. I was at a point in life where I was getting tired of the monotony of life. My job was stressful and I’d be one of those people staring out the window dreaming of travelling to around the world. I think if you force yourself into doing things that don’t resonate with the real you, it chips away at your soul.
So after many deep conversations with my husband about where our lives were heading, we both quit our jobs. I’d realised that life was too short to stay in a job I hated and not at least try to fulfill our dreams of travel. It was scary making that leap of leaving a secure job. It’s not easy and there were many times where I wondered if I was being selfish or just running away from life. But looking back it was the best decision I’d ever made.
The whole experience of travel totally changed my perspective on life. It’s true when they say it’s the journey not the destination that matters. The destinations were amazing but the shift in mindset that happens along the way is so profound. You learn so much about the world.
Whilst I was travelling I came across so many communities of women weaving beautiful things. Whether it was in Nepal, India or Indonesia, I’d see women weaving beautiful fabrics. As a young girl I’d always loved handmade clothes and I fondly remember my mum embroidering her saris. It was an inherent part of my Indian heritage. In between the sheer exhilaration of travel, my experiences and my backpack taught me to let go of a lot of things – mentally and emotionally. I realised I didn’t need so much stuff and witnessing so much inequality around the world served to strengthen my values around fashion.
You made a massive change in your life when starting Jewelled Buddha. How much of an impact did your personal journey have on your mental health?
Starting a business is as exciting as it is challenging. The first couple of years were a deep learning curve and everything was new and exciting! I was in unchartered territory and that kept me very busy. Over time I’ve noticed running a business can affect your mental health in so many ways.
Firstly, it’s incredibly lonely. Especially if you work by yourself. Apart from the times you may have pop ups, or exhibitions, you spend a lot of time by yourself. You make decisions by yourself, go through ups and downs by yourself and generally spend a huge amount of time behind a computer consumed by your business. Friends and family help but they don’t quite get it and that’s not their fault. I just think running a business throws unique sets of challenges your way that not everyone can quite understand. I’m part of many supportive business groups, where I connect with others and that really helps.
Secondly I found that I’m constantly thinking about my business, even when I’m not. Whether that’s whilst I’m on holiday, cooking or loading the washing machine! It’s always there! It can feel very overwhelming thinking about the to do list which always gets longer, not smaller!
Social media is also a very mentally challenging place. While I love posting about my business, I make a conscious effort to be very focused with my efforts on there now. Taking breaks if I have to, as social media can suck your time and energy. I also avoid comparing my journey to others. I used to do it a lot when I first started out and it’s the easiest way to make yourself feel awful or knock your confidence. These days I just focus on my own journey.
Can you explain to our readers what Fast Fashion is and how you are working to change things in the fashion industry?
In a nutshell, fast fashion is cheap, trend-driven clothing produced quickly in high volumes. It’s made by low paid garment workers from developing countries who are exploited and usually work long hours in poor working conditions. Due to its low price and poor quality, this leads to over-consumption where it’s treated as disposable. Clothing waste ends up in landfill, polluting the environment and damaging wildlife both on land and sea.
As an ethical business that celebrates artisan techniques, my collections are small batch and handcrafted. I’m re-connecting consumers with their clothing so they appreciate the value and craft techniques used to create them. It’s about slow fashion that champions the skills of artisans, enables them to earn a sustainable income and keeps age-old craft techniques from dying out.
We celebrate culture and clothing and believe artisan fashion is an important part of sustainable fashion as a whole. All our collections are made using upcycled or handloomed fabrics with toxic free dyes and using craft techniques passed down generations. Because everything is handcrafted, there is little to no use of energy. Plus we work only with respected social enterprises and NGO’s who are deeply invested in their artisan communities and care about their welfare and future.
In contrast, the fast fashion model is all about profit. There’s no accountability for the damage done to the environment or responsibility taken for those who make the clothes. At its heart, fast fashion is colonial abuse that exploits those in developing countries whilst profiting from consumers.
How important do you think it is to help empower women?
There’s a quote that says “If you educate a man, you educate an individual. If you educate a woman, you educate a nation”. I think this sums up so well how important women empowerment is. As our products are made in India, the vast majority of artisans are women. In fact, over 80% of the handicraft workforce in India and Bangladesh are women. Most are marginalized in some way and experience many social, economic and cultural barriers to improving their lives.
All the social enterprises and NGO’s I work with run women empowerment programs and are deeply involved in upskilling women artisans through on-going training. They also invest in the health and education of the women and their families and run programs that break down and change social and cultural barriers in a male dominated society.
Do you feel your ethos makes a positive impact on women and their mental health?
Absolutely! Fashion and mental health are deeply interconnected. How we feel about ourselves impacts our fashion choices and how we dress influences our mental health. Fashion communicates so much about ourselves – who we are and what we value. It has the power to lift our spirits and at the same time, the ability to make us feel self conscious about our bodies. Our ethos is about empowering women with style that expresses their values of sustainability. If you care about the people who make your clothes, if you’re concerned about the environment and if you’re a lover of artisan crafted clothing that’s ethical and beautiful, wearing your values is a way of truly expressing who you are. It’s about individualism and authenticity rather than chasing trends
Jewellery can make a huge difference to our daily moods. Perhaps it is sentimental, beautiful or just your favourite piece. What piece of jewellery do you get out and just feel your mood lift?
I have a lovely pair of gold earrings my mum bought for me on a family holiday to India. She’s got great taste and they’re so wearable for day or night.
Your Sari Bead necklaces are elegant, sophisticated and absolutely stunning! Can you explain the process by which the beads are made?
Thank you! The sari beads are definitely my happy place! They’re created from the offcuts of our sari scarves, which makes them zero waste. The offcuts are meticulously wrapped around lightweight wooden prayer beads and securely tied with cotton thread. It’s a labour intensive process and the artisans are so skilled in creating these.
The fact the beads are recycled is wonderful. Again, knowing that we are buying ethically can have a positive impact on our mental health. How exactly does purchasing the sari necklace help those who have made them?
The necklaces are crafted by a family of migrants who live in Delhi. They’ve been creating these for over 10 years now and earn a sustainable income that enables them to invest in their families, their health and education. In general migrants have a hard time making a living in India. Unless they’re educated, they mostly have to make do with unskilled, labour jobs that don’t pay much. It can be a hand-to-mouth existence for many.
You sent us a beautiful sari necklace in gorgeous warm summer colours of cerise, yellows, deep greens and oranges. A single strand of beads, the necklace can be worn in a multitude of ways and even layered with other pieces. It genuinely makes us smile each time we look at it. It is lightweight, vibrant and versatile. Were these factors in your design?
Most definitely. It can be tricky to find beads that are lightweight, made from natural materials and ethically made. Whilst we do multi-layered necklaces, you can’t beat a single strand of beads for those who prefer simplicity but still want a necklace that’s versatile enough to be layered or worn with other jewellery.
Do you have a favourite piece from the collection and why?
I love the new collection of 5 layer necklaces. They’re tactile enough for everyday, instantly lift your outfits and mood with their colours and are great for adding texture to clothing. Perfect for the coming Autumn and Winter months when we’re all wearing knits. They’ve also got a combination of big and small beads, which makes them so interesting to look at.
The Wonder Collection
The Wonder Self-Care Journal! We believe self-care is vital to great mental health. What is your go to self-care activity and why?
I’ll go for a walk. Usually in my local park which has a coffee shop that I can grab a coffee and get lost in a book. But walking is definitely my go to. It clears my head and gives me time to unwind in nature.
The Wonder Mix Tape! What song/artist do you find uplifting and listening to it/them boosts your mood?
Oh there’s so many! How could I possibly just choose one! As a wanderlust traveller I love the Globetrekker theme tune by Ian Ritchie. Always makes me feel good, reminds me of my all my travels and gets me excited when I think of all the places I haven’t been yet.
The Wonder Bookshelf! Can you recommend a book to our readers. Fiction, non-fiction, feel good or advice giving. Why did you choose this book?
I’m currently reading I Can Hear The Cuckoo: Life In the Wilds of Wales by a friend of mine I used to work with – Kiran Sidhu. It’s a heartwarming story of how Kiran who lost her mum, found peace, rebirth and a sense of community when she moves to the Welsh countryside.
The Wonder Sketchbook! Being mindful is a not just rewarding but can also be a lot of fun.
Draw a self-portrait, draw a dog, a cat, rainbow, anything that comes to mind.
It’s that time again to add to our massive prize bundle worth over £1800!! Could you be our winner? All you have to do is enter below and check out our previous WTMH? articles for more chances to win. You can find them all in our Competitions section.
Today we are adding this stunning Layared Aqua Sari Necklace from Jewelled Buddha valued at £59a Rafflecopter giveaway
Remember to listen to WTMH? What The Mental Health? Our brand new podcast available over on Apple. Our first Episode ‘Introductions’ is available now and we will have new episodes each week!