Heidi established the atelier at Dangra Toli in Ranchi, in 2006 – as a social enterprise. For more than a decade the atelier offered full-time, steady employment to semiliterate Adivasi and Muslims.
The Adivasi hired are generally women and are trained into management functions. The tailors – traditionally Muslim and generally male – are trained to sew clothing to quasi-couture standards for fashion and homewear commissioned by Swiss designers (such as Ines Boesch and Pino Olivieri).
Besides producing beautiful clothes, the Atelier creates an environment for personal growth and development with its flat hierarchy and expectations of employee responsibility. Working together despite the differences of culture, religion, gender, vision, and language demands patience, compassion and diligence, and above all, teamwork to get things done.
The clothing is made by hand, sewn on non-electric machines. Each piece is cut from a precious hand-woven fabric: gorgeous linen, delicately and finely woven cottons, luxurious mulberry and tassar silks, as well as traditional cottons and linens from Kitahatu. Fabrics not woven in Kitahatu are purchased at retail prices through recognized and reputable government handicraft stores, or well-known NGOs – in support of the handloom weavers of India.