I was a Sari

Gucci supports a group of hard-working women from underprivileged communities in Mumbai to become world-class artisans and gain financial independence

Founded by Stefano Funari in 2013, I Was a Sari is an Indian social enterprise selling upcycled products such as contemporary ready-to-wear and accessories made from pre-loved saris. In India, saris are traditional attire for women and a source of cultural pride.
Each I Was a Sari product is handcrafted by underprivileged Indian women, providing them with regular income and financial independence.

“Until yesterday there was no life for us. We just used to stay in our houses. But after joining I Was a Sari, we felt respected.”

Rubina Shaikh, Artisan

“Where most people see unemployed and uneducated women, we see potentially talented artisans who learn to design their future.”

Stefano Funari, Founder and CEO of I Was a Sari

Gucci has been supporting this initiative since 2018 in a number of ways, including a special embroidery training programme for female artisans. Working with four of Gucci’s partner export houses, the artisans have been trained in traditional techniques and a new premium line of I Was a Sari products has been launched.

The artisans, managed by I Was a Sari’s partner NGOs – Community Outreach Programme and Animedh Charitable Trust – completed their initial training and attended an additional workshop in 2019 at the Gucci Creative Office in Rome as part of the Gucci Changemakers Volunteering Program.

“Where most people see waste, we see value – where most people see a pile of old saris, we see the potential to create contemporary fashion.”

Stefano Funari, Founder and CEO of I Was a Sari

In 2019 I Was a Sari won the Circular Design Challenge Award, India’s first award for sustainable fashion, and the Responsible Disruptive Award in Milan, at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards, the prestigious annual event that celebrates style in sustainable fashion.

I Was a Sari in numbers in 2022
247 female artisans involved in the project during 2022
286% increase in headcount and 742% increase in products sold since 2018
417% increase in hours of fairly paid work

The collaboration between I was a Sari and Gucci continues to evolve and grow. In 2020, an embroidery training program called “Now I Can” and sponsored by Gucci’s CHIME FOR CHANGE initiative has been launched on an open-source digital platform with the goal of scaling the impact of the I was a Sari-Gucci Equilibrium partnership and increasing the number of female beneficiaries. Available for free on Udemy, a digital platform for online courses, the workshop has been designed to train artisans in the art of embroidery. Social enterprises and nonprofit organizations can offer the qualified professional training course to their members, with the objective of training Indian women and helping them secure new job opportunities and an income. Users can join the online training program for free by sending an email to

2020 also saw the launch of a second project, developed within the Gucci Changemakers Volunteering Program. The project involved members of the design team in Rome connecting with I was a Sari’s artisans through a virtual exchange of creativity and insights. Together, they identified embroidery and quilting techniques for I was a Sari, which have led to the launch of a new capsule collection of accessories and ready-to-wear products, some of which are shown here below. Beyond design, Gucci employees have shared accounting, photography, digital-marketing, operations and a broader set skills with I was a Sari.

In 2021, I was a Sari’s parent organization, 2nd Innings Handicrafts, was included in the 100 Corporate-Ready Social Enterprises list in a new report led by Acumen and developed in collaboration with members of the World Economic Forum’s COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs with the objective to reveal the large untapped opportunity for corporations and social enterprises to do business together. Discover the report here.

Related stories
previous slide
01 / 03
next slide