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Imagine if … handknitting was the new language of global connection.

It would weave and connect brands, consumers and artisans together in a manner that people never imagined. Conversations of caring and interest would take place.

KOCO means Knit One garment Change One life. We are handknitting experts and handknit for global fashion brands.

KOCO is more than a manufacturing hub. We are handknitting life-changing fashion. We employ a lady, train her in the art and science of handknitting as well as reading English and mathematics. At the end of her apprenticeship, she can handknit one garment perfectly and we have transformed her life.

KOCO is a company established in Australia in partnership with women who live in rural southern India. What began as a solution to producing handknitted garments off shore for my label is now a sisterhood of artisans and a business with the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development entwined in our DNA. We are delivering on the UN’s Goals of Gender Equality, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Reduce Inequalities, and Responsible Consumption and Production.

KOCO began with ten women, sitting on the floor of a home in a rural village. I didn’t speak Tamil, and the ladies didn’t speak English, but we were determined to make the business work.

We established a paid apprenticeship and afterwards quality control measures to ensure every garment was made to exacting specifications without machine intervention – no waste, no carbon footprint.

We have scaled the art of handknitting to a science able to produce commercial quantities of garments, all 100% handknitted. I employed more ladies. We now employ 100 women in India. Each of our artisans supports a family of six or seven people, so KOCO is changing the lives of more than 600 people right now.

Every day I hear stories of what the work means to our artisans. I see them blossoming into confident, strong women. Most of our artisans had never been to school. For many, working at KOCO is the first time they feel their own value and their self-esteem is growing. 

Bringing these ladies together, away from their domestic life has created a wonderful sisterhood. This connection is an integral part of the KOCO story which is touching the hearts of brands and consumers around the world. We are building a very large women’s only business which is handknitting the world together.

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DANIELLE CHIEL

I fell in love with the art of handknitting as a 10-year-old. My great-aunt Pearl taught me the craft during a day off school and it was love at first stitch.

After a career as a teacher and earning a PhD in musicology, I turned to my love of knitting and fashion to open a retail knitting store in Brisbane called Threads & More. I engaged people with a passion for handknitting, worked on pattern and garment design, then launched my self-named label in 2009.

In 2012 industrial legislation changes made producing our garments in Australia untenable. I sought an off-shore location to set up manufacturing hubs. A colleague introduced me to a contact in India. I travelled there in 2012 with a suitcase full of knitting needles and yarn.

The first knitting hub began with a group of ten women, sitting on the floor of a home in a rural village. I didn’t speak Tamil, and the ladies didn’t speak English, but we were determined to communicate with each other to make the business work.

At first, our artisans were handknitting for my own label. As we perfected the apprenticeship program and saw how stable work and income was impacting the lives of our ladies and their families, I reached out to other brands to manufacture garments for their labels.

The business is now called KOCO – Knit One (garment) Change One (life). We employ a lady, train her in the art and science of handknitting as well as reading English and mathematics. At the end of her apprenticeship, she can handknit one garment perfectly and we have transformed her life. KOCO transformed my life, too.

Our goal is to employ more women and reawaken the fashion industry to the human and commercial potential of how handknitting can change the world.

You can find out more about the KOCO journey, the incredible growing sisterhood amongst the artisans, and how KOCO is becoming a transformative force in the fashion world in my newly published books, KOCO – How handknitting is changing lives and the fashion industry and KOCO - Handknitting the world together.

THE GLOBAL GOALS

 

 
 

KOCO is proud to meet many of the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development which focus on sustainable, reliable work and call for an end to gender inequality. The goals are part of the UN's document titled Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is an ambitious but achievable plan of action for people, planet, and prosperity that seeks to strengthen universal peace.

Our mission is particularly relevant to the UN’s following statement: “We must start by empowering girls and women. Goals that work for women and girls are goals that will work for the world.”

 
 

 
 
 
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GOAL 5

GENDER EQUALITY

 

 
 

KOCO artisans often represent the first generation of women employed in rural Indian villages. These jobs make a significant contribution to gender equality in their immediate context, where it is already challenging the economic and social model of male empowerment and female subservience. One of the first purchases our artisans often make is a mobile phone. Southern Indian villages have poor access to technology but our hubs are closing the gender equality gap by making it easier for women to buy technology. 

 
 
 
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GOAL 8

DECENT WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH

 

 
 

We provide safe, enjoyable working environments, with stimulating, emotionally and intellectually rewarding work for all employees. Every six months, the number of ladies employed increases by 50 per cent, which ensures steady and sustainable economic growth. KOCO hubs adhere to the International Labor Organisation’s four fundamental principles – freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of forced labour; the abolition of child labour; and the elimination of discrimination. The discrimination of caste is still prevalent in India but our hubs take no note of this social structure in our hiring policy. 

 
 
 
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GOAL 10

REDUCE INEQUALITIES

 

 
 

We are proud of our work to close the gender gap in employment opportunities in the rural villages. Jobs at KOCO hubs challenge gender inequality by providing independence, greater personal power distribution, the education of daughters, and financial management skills.

 
 
 
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GOAL 12

RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION AND PRODUCTION

 

 
 

Our handknitted garments are 100% handmade. There is no mechanical intervention. All wool scraps are re-purposed for training or demonstration work so there is no waste. We have a strong working relationship with wool producer, Gostwyck, in Australia. Gostwyck grows happy sheep which means their animals are mules-free, are cared for to maximise health and minimise stress.

 
 

PURPOSE

As we hand-knit fabulous garments for global fashion brands, we’re transforming the lives of our handknitters in rural southern India.

At our handknitting hubs we employ women who had little or no school education and no employment prospects aside from seasonal work labouring in fields or construction sites. We offer a paid apprenticeship in which women learn the art of hand-knitting, reading English, mathematics, time management and communication skills.

By the end of the apprenticeship, a lady is able to hand-knit a whole garment from start to finish to exact specifications. They are then employed full-time as artisan handknitters.

Our ladies set their own working hours to balance work and family life. For the first time, women have a stable income. The employment, ongoing training and personal development at KOCO is like a pebble dropped in a pond, the ripple-effect is transforming whole villages where our hubs are based. We are creating life-changing fashion.

Our artisans hand-knit in precise detail, for catwalk-ready fashions, huggable toys, luxurious homewares - anything you can imagine. Every fashion piece and soft homeware we hand-knit comes with our story.

Most of our artisans had never been to school. For many, working at KOCO is the first time they feel their own value and their self-esteem is growing. 

Bringing these ladies together, away from their domestic life has created a wonderful sisterhood.

This connection is an integral part of the KOCO story which is touching the hearts of brands and consumers around the world. We are building a women’s only business which is handknitting the world together.

Our mission is to employ 40,000 women in rural southern India, breaking negative economic cycles and ensuring the future sustainability of village life. To achieve this, we need to knit one million garments each year. 

Be part of this mission.  

We work with brands who value handmade products, quality merchandise, and socially-responsible solutions to manufacturing.

Connecting with us shows your customers you’re genuine about making a difference in the lives of the people who make your products.

Connecting with us means your brand stands with like-minded leaders who are bringing a new definition to the term ‘value for money’ by recognising the customer and the maker as equals in the fashion industry. 

 

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