Shine on at Lush Bazaar
Situated a short stroll from Lancaster's Central Market, Lush Bazaar immediately draws attention with its colorful display window.
But it isn't just the clothing on the mannequin that shines on.
The shop, founded by Lancaster local Timbrel Chyatee, focuses on providing sustainable clothing and fair wage jobs for its employees.
"People are really open to this bazaar and the mission and the way that we're trying to make a difference in fashion, especially in a world where everyday fashion is about using and exploiting people with sweatshops and paying them really terrible wages," Chyatee said.
The stunning dresses, skirts, shirts and menswear displayed in Lush Bazaar utilize the Lambadi fashion of mirrorwork, or kutchwork, as well as kalamkari design and block printing. All fabrics are hand-dyed and hand-stitched.
"You will not find these prints anywhere else," Chyatee said.
Any leftover fabrics are used to make purses, scarves, belts or other sustainable accessories.
"I find Indian culture beautiful; I find it very innate and the fabrics are so unique. I felt like I was piecing two worlds together, Indian and Western, which is kind of what my life has been growing up, two worlds," Chyatee said.
While living in India, she became inspired by a single mother in a bazaar.
"She was pretty much surviving by going and looking for work by sewing pieces and garments for other individuals she met in the bazaar. And she was so tenacious and that really spoke to me, her tenacity to not give up," said Chyatee, who hails from a long line of Christian humanitarians and missionaries.
The woman, Divya, was a widow providing for her children after losing her husband to suicide. Married at 14 and widowed by 21 with two small boys, Divya's work as a seamstress allowed her to send both of her boys to university and pay off her late husband's debt.
"I realized that you can make a difference with fashion," Chyatee said.
Similarly, Jaweed has spent his entire life in the fashion industry, primarily in sweatshops. A father of five, Jaweed feared he would be unable to pay for his daughters' weddings.
"Working with me, he has that extra income now and makes a fair wage that he's able to provide for them and his family," Chyatee said.
Another employee escaped from an abusive husband who was particularly incensed by her failure to produce sons. Women with similar stories inspired Chyatee to create her home goods collection, Coming Home.
Proceeds from the collection go to women of abuse to help them leave their homes and restart their lives.
"So that while they're building their homes, you're actually buying something for your home to kind of support them through the journey," Chyatee said.
What began as an Etsy shop transitioned into a website, and then a boutique in downtown Lancaster.
As a kid, Chyatee would mix and match American and Indian clothing, everything from a crop top with a sari, blouse and jeans "before it was even cool" to a ghagra as her prom dress.
"I always found ways to mix my culture in with my everyday world and I feel like there are other people that feel the same way and wanna do the same thing. They wanna embrace two cultures," Chyatee said.
Born in India, Chyatee grew up in Texas and then in Lancaster.
Although she has good memories of both, Chyatee recalled feeling like the odd one out with no other Indians in her area.
"I think because I was the only Indian, I always tried to learn about other cultures around me, which really brought my love for culture and people," she said.
Her family moved back to India for a few years during her adolescence.
"It did happen over 9/11, so that was something that I learned about and it was the first time in my life where I realized what an immigrant is like and how people tend to treat immigrants because of what happened with 9/11," Chyatee said.
The family returned to Lancaster, but at 24, Chyatee moved back to India.
This time, she was on her own.
"It was definitely a very different experience from all the other times that I lived in India. Because I went on my own, I wanted to learn about my culture on my own and kind of find myself through all this, so it was more of me learning how women are treated in India when they don't have their parents supporting them, 'cause even though my parents did support me, I went on my own so they kinda gave me that freedom to explore on my own."
Chyatee said finding an apartment was particularly difficult, as a young single woman.
"Just doing things on your own in a country that is so male-dominated; it was definitely a very eye-opening experience and it also taught me a lot about myself and how strong I am," she said.
In addition to India, Chyatee has been to 47 states, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Dubai, Pakistan, London and more recently, Cuba. She'd particularly like to visit Myanmar, where her grandparents met and fell in love.
"I really want people to understand the importance of shopping ethically and how even spending that little extra money for clothing or getting something custom-made will really be worth it, because you are helping somebody else, as well as you are buying a really special piece of fashion that you will not get again," Chyatee said.
"I think you can look at fashion in a different light and it's about time we do it again," she added.
Lush Bazaar is open Tuesdays-Saturdays from 10am to 5pm and is located at 50 N. Queen in downtown Lancaster. For more information, follow the shop on Facebook and Instagram, or visit lushbazaar.com.
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