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The Hidesign campus was transformed from rice fields into a green oasis of streams, waterfalls, wild grass and trees by the landscape artist Claude Borg. It is a place that encourages reflection, innovation and love of nature. Ray Meeker, ceramist and architect, built a home for Hidesign, full of warmth, with raw brick buildings and inner courtyards, surrounded by lush greenery and freshwater streams. No single workplace has more than 60 people, and our artisans typically work in small groups of 3-4 people. Ray Meeker’s architecture supports our efforts to create an atmosphere that encourages artisanal skills and individual responsibilities, not the mass manufacturing techniques that have become so common.
Hidesign hired from local villages, often uneducated women from the local villages, training them in the skills to handcraft a slow but thoughtful product. Forty years later, we have developed one of the most skilled leather ateliers in the world; master craftswomen who are now training the next generation, making our atelier proudly 90% women.
The culture of Hidesign has been firmly built on the principle of equality, irrespective of race, caste, religion, gender or sexual identity. The organization works hard to hire more women and persons from religious minorities and the LGBTQ community, to create a more diverse workplace. The topic of diversity appears frequently through our journey, with many of our ad campaigns specifically calling out inequalities. Often these campaigns have been banned in conservative societies, while we have continued to speak out.
Hidesign’s outreach has emphasized support for the communities around it, especially in areas of sustainability, education and research. An ongoing project is to create the first forest on the east coast between Pondicherry and Chennai. The emphasis here is to bring back the indigenous forest trees over 50 acres of land, to protect the coastline against the danger of climate change and sea erosion. In the past, it has worked on projects, in the international community of Auroville, on afforestation and the research of traditional medicinal plants.
The majority of craftspeople at Hidesign are women from the villages surrounding its atelier. As a major employer, Hidesign has been constantly interacting and supporting small community groups in these areas, funding schools & research in the free system of education over the last 40 years.