AMMA was started with a vision to do business differently: purpose-led, community-focused and authentically creative. We turn food waste and plants into natural textile dyes whilst providing employment to mothers from Sri Lanka’s tea picking communities. They hand dye, weave and stitch our fabrics into clothing and accessories.
Our workshop has been open for three years. During that time we have occupied and transitioned through four buildings, leaving behind the one-roomed garage where we started and most recently finding our home in a large, spacious workshop close to town. It’s in this workshop that we have been able to unite multiple traditional textile processes under one roof. These processes challenge the current model of fast fashion, which is inherently decentralized, contributes to 20% of freshwater pollution worldwide and is one of the largest polluting industries globally.
We have experienced great satisfaction opposing accepted norms and forging our own path in this world. It has provided a myriad of benefits for both people and the planet, primarily addressing the issues of unemployment and the discrimination inflicted upon the women of Indian-Tamil origin living on Sri Lanka’s tea estates. AMMA believes that dignified employment can help transition people out of poverty, empowering them to choose the future they want. Providing employment for women locally solves a whole range of problems. It means that women don’t need to move to large cities or the Middle East to find work, leaving both themselves and their children vulnerable to abuse. It strengthens local economies and brings fresh purpose to communities.
It takes time and trust for a business to tackle these complex issues. Truth be told, my dreams may not be realised within my lifetime, but we are seeing important progress being made. Our employees have reported that our supportive environment and additional life skills sessions have helped tackle feelings of depression and mental illness. Roles are reversing, and we are seeing our women becoming primary earners within their households. AMMA is one of the leading practitioners of natural dyeing in Sri Lanka, and our workshop has become an educational hub where we welcome both tourists and students to learn about alternative production methods. Our reliance on natural elements, both plants and water, to provide our colour has led to seasonal colour palettes and re-imagined ways of releasing our collections – not to mention the agility and speed with which we can create new products.
Reviving ancient skills for the modern day isn’t for the faint-hearted, and we’ve had our fair share of problems to overcome. As we look to the future, AMMA is perfectly positioned to go full circle and embrace a regenerative approach to textile manufacturing. Our tag line is ‘Grown Colour, Mother Made’, and our goal now is to live fully in that vision to provide greater employment through the growing and harvesting of our own dye plants – and, hopefully, even fibre. As I realign my values, I am looking away from the fashion industry for guidance and more towards the agricultural industry for expertise and collaboration.