Anchal project

Colleen Clines MLA 10

Based in Louisville, KY


Anchal is a non-profit social enterprise that provides sustainable employment to exploited women worldwide by creating contemporary handmade textiles from eco-friendly materials.  Colleen Clines designed Anchal's latest evolution, the Narrative Collection, by exploring the connection between vernacular imagery, heritage artwork & a maker's journey to empowerment. Each design is captured in a photograph & translated into a quilt's composition, allowing variant stitch patterns to reveal the artisan's process & determination.


What are some things that inspire you in your studio practice?

Anchal is a non-profit social enterprise addressing the exploitation of women around the world by using design thinking to create employment opportunities, products and markets that support empowerment.

Anchal is inspired by the powerful women behind each product and the impact design has to change lives. Each artisan stitches their signature onto the quilts, scarves, and pillows, so you have a direct connection to the woman you are supporting with your purchase. 

"We work really hard to make stuff that people like. When people buy our products it means that we can feed, clothe, and educate our children." --Nazia

To date, Anchal has offered over 150 commercial sex workers alternative careers in textile design. Anchal's current Narrative Collection draws inspiration from the vibrant visual stories found in architectural details and the powerful women of India. Each design is captured in a photograph and translated into a quilt's compositional pattern. The dynamic energy of each piece is activated by variant stitch patterns revealing the artisan's process and determination to create long lasting social change.


Does your current creative practice tie into your time spent at RISD? How so?

Colleen Clines 2.jpg

I am thrilled to return to Anchal's roots! Without the RISD alumni sale event in 2009, Anchal would not exist.  Through the RISD art sale on Benefit Street later that spring we raised $400 - enough money to pay for a sewing machine, training, materials, and a stipend for the first 15 artisans. In 2010, Anchal officially launched after receiving 501(c)3 non-profit status in Louisville. Just over seven years later, Anchal has become a global brand and has offered over 150 commercial sex workers alternative careers in textile design. Anchal products have been sold in Urban Outfitters nationwide, worn by actress America Ferrera and featured in Harper's Bazaar and Better Homes & Gardens.

On paper, my current work is a far reach from my background in Landscape Architecture. However, it was during my time at RISD that I learned systems based thinking and how it could be applied to more than just the urban environment around me.

As a graduate student at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), I took a seminar that explored design in the developing world and discovered that design could improve lives, our environment and the international community. During a trip to Kolkata that spring we visited the red light district of Kalighat. Crammed within the narrow alleyways of Kalighat dwell a teeming population of women, men and children. Women line the entrances of the neighborhood, waiting for clients. Water and toilets are scarce and children are often undernourished and neglected as a result of their mothers' work. In a complex system of pimps, madams and prostitutes, there is little hope of a life outside of this forced prostitution. It is here that we met our first NGO partner, New Light. The founder Urmi Basu expressed interest in providing economic alternatives for the commercial sex workers of Kalighat and textiles seemed like the perfect medium. Upon our return, I felt compelled to take the project beyond the classroom with the conviction that my design training in collaboration with local leadership could address seemingly intractable social and environmental systems. The women we met became our sisters, sisters we had to fight for.


Is there a work/body of work that you are particularly excited about sharing with us at RISD Craft this year?

Anchal's newest Narrative Collection explores the connection between vernacular imagery, heritage artwork and a maker's journey to empowerment. The contemporary geometric design partnered with the aggregated stitch pattern revolutionizes traditional kantha quilting techniques.


Any recent press/exhibitions/achievements you'd like to share with us?

Anchal's Narrative Sari Quilt won Best in Market & Best New Product in Global Handmade at NY NOW in February!

To see more Anchal Project, visit