A college project evolved into Anchal—a thriving nonprofit collaborative that produces textiles and apparel so stunning that the renowned Guggenheim Museum recently came calling. Sisters Maggie and Colleen Clines, a Hodgkin’s survivor, share the latest chapter in an uplifting story that brings color to so many lives.
Most people simply want to check the box and get a diploma when they finish their senior college projects. Most people aren’t Colleen Clines. When a class project at the Rhode Island School of Design and trip to India sparked the idea of creating an initiative that could employ impoverished women attempting to escape the sex trade, she couldn’t simply take the “A” and move on. She decided to make her theoretical concept into a very real, life-changing reality.
She resettled in Louisville and once her younger sister, Maggie, graduated from the University of Kentucky and moved back home, the two began applying for nonprofit status and traveling to India to meet with a local charity that could identify and train women to become skilled artisans. In 2012, Anchal launched with a small collection of scarves and textiles… gradually added coats, kimonos and bags… created a microcollection for Urban Outfitters, gained more of a national following… added more product categories… and, just this fall, produced a five-piece capsule collection for the Guggenheim Museum.
“The Guggenheim team approached us at a trade show and expressed interest in collaborating,” says Colleen. “We stayed in touch over the months and then they asked us to create five pieces for their fall exhibition: Helma af Klint. Of course, we jumped.” The exhibit of the obscure modernist painter resonated with the two women. Says Maggie, “Her painting does a lot of storytelling and uses a lot of symbolism. We fell in love with it.” Now everyone else can fall in love with the collection it inspired.
With these kinds of successes, Anchal has grown exponentially from its initial eight artisans and tiny collection. “We’ve trained over four hundred women,” says Colleen. “Some of our sewers have become project assistants. Some have moved on to open their own dress shops.” And their extensive line of home décor, accessories and apparel now sells in hundreds of boutiques across the country and on line.
What makes the arc of the Anchal story even more astonishing is the little-known fact that Colleen was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s disease just as the company was getting off the ground. “For six months, I went through chemo treatment while continuing to launch the brand,” says Colleen. “It was certainly challenging. But having Anchal to focus my energy was helpful. Being sick didn’t feel like as big a hurdle because I was so passionate about what we were doing. I was determined.”
Her determination has spawned another initiative, Dyescape, which trains women in our own Portland neighborhood to make dyes that are used to lend the Anchal textiles their vibrant hues. Thanks to her vision and the support of her family, Anchal is a local company that touches lives at home and across the globe. “We look for every opportunity to spread the word about Anchal,” she says. “And we are so grateful that the Guggenheim collection can bring more awareness and, ultimately, more jobs for women who truly deserve them.”
IF YOU GO
You can view samples from the Guggenheim capsule collection as well as the entire line of Anchal products at the seventh annual Anchal Holiday open house at Whitehall Historic Whitehall at 3110 Lexington Rd, on Thursday, November 15, from 10 AM to 8 PM. 100% of every purchase is invested into empowering exploited women in India and Kentucky.