Ektara works with women artisans from rural parts of North India to make handmade crochet and knitted toys for children. It promotes rural craftsmanship and supports projects aimed at women’s empowerment, employment and sustainability. Business expansion and entry into an urban retail market required a brand thought, whose first expression is packaging and identity.
The appeal of these innocent, soft toys is obvious. The Ektara product and its source are a readymade fit for those it targets. These are urban parents, typically well-off professionals, who yearn to revive an Indian-ness that they perceive to be eroded by the soul-less industrialism of western-style living (to which they are entirely adapted). The aim is to resolve this contradiction by achieving a repackaging of traditional earthiness in a modern way. The name ‘Ektara’ refers to a rudimentary, folk music instrument made out of a bamboo neck, a resonating chamber made of gourd, and a single string, and is among the few possessions of a travelling singer in the countryside. Our approach combines this frugal entertainment with the underlying innocence of childhood (the product essence).
The soft, gentle and childlike mark contrasts with the raw packaging style. Made of kraft paper with its coarse, tactile texture and colour, it suggests a man-made use of a natural material, and a perfect base for the art that is ‘painted’ on it. Inspired by the stories we were told as children, in which animals are central, the rough drawings of these creatures mirrors the joy of the playing with, and making, the toys. It’s anti-slickness, and appears to evoke the painted art-walls from the folk and rural culture of India. A hexagonal prism structure with a window includes the toy in the ’story’ and allows boxes to joined together to form a set that could be used to relay a storyline between a set of toys. Finally, the screen-printing completes the handmade effect. The brand emerges as the perfect storyteller of its innocent, ‘real’ roots.