In India, we have fashion that is both high-end and street-smart. In fact, street fashion is a cult business in the country that allows customers to bargain — something they cannot quite do anywhere else. Speaking of streets, did you know there is one in Kolkata, which refurbishes old, worn jeans overnight, to make them look new again?
Indian Express photographer Shashi Ghosh captured, in a series of photographs, the essence of “Laundry Alley”. Read on.
Here, old jeans are made new, and they are then sold in shopping malls. Hundreds of families in Nilmadhab Sen Lane, opposite Mohammad Ali Park, run the business. In fact, the street is filled with jeans hanging from ropes. Those who are in this business, bargain for old jeans at Girish Park in the morning.
When you make your way to Nilmadhab Sen Lane, you spot blue-black jeans hanging from strings in almost every alley! People here are either busy washing them or getting them dyed and sewn.
Mohammad Sheikh Ghazi has been associated with this business for almost five years now. According to him, there is no skipping hard work in this business.
“Every day, I wake up at 4 am and reach Girish Park market by 5,” Ghazi told indianexpress.com. “Old jeans find their way here from different parts of the state, and sometimes even from Assam. We buy them for Rs 20-40. Then the cleaner has to be paid Rs 15 to wash them, following which, they are mixed with colour and dried. If the jeans are torn, they are polished after sewing.”
Bablu, who has been long associated with the job, said: “Most of the employees here are from Bihar. Everyone faced problems during the lockdown. Now, the income is much less than what it used to be, especially after working all day. The traders involved in this business send jeans to Dharmatala-Hatibagan market premises. They are also sold in Kerala, Jharkhand, and Bihar.”
Traders claim the cost per pair is Rs 50-60. It is sold in the state at double the price. “Traders claim the profit margin increases when they go to different states. They say if you don’t go to the market one day, it becomes difficult to give the right thing to the buyer at the right time,” he said.
In all, the income from this business is estimated to be between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000.