Gurpreet Sidhu – Pioneer of ethical design & fair trade in India

Gurpreet Sidhu – Pioneer of ethical design & fair trade in India People Tree is a design studio cum store that was founded by NID graduate Gurpreet Sidhu and two other associates. Over a span of almost 25 years, this unique initiative has taken firm root in the soil of creativity, has remained true to its core values of cultivating environment-friendly designs with a purpose, based on the principles of fair trade, and providing a meeting ground for artists, artisans, activists and designers. People Tree started as a small niche store in the heart of Delhi (Connaught Place) and has now branched out into several stores across the country.

Germination of the Idea
Gurpreet Sidhu has been the backbone and sheet anchor of People Tree since its inception in the early 90’s. She shares how the idea of People Tree germinated, “As a young design graduate, I was working on various projects and was disillusioned with the approach to design. In the design institutes, we were given the impression that we were pioneers; we were going to be the frontrunners of change in India — of aesthetics, of quality of life, of social change. India is about its people. We found that the projects we were doing had nothing to do with people. So we started to relook at ourselves and our identity and that was reflected in People Tree.”

The People Tree Ideology
The core ideology of People Tree is to encourage indigenous artisans and to be a beacon of design with a conscience. Gurpreet says, “If you stick to your USP and integrity, eventually a path opens before you. A lot of the ideas that we talked about 25 years ago, such as about the environment, fair trade, organic food and sustainability have now become fairly mainstream. Over the years we have expanded, but have kept our core values intact.” Gurpreet adds, “We have never shouted, our product and philosophy speaks for itself and we have built partnerships with people who resonate with our way of thinking. We can reinvent ourselves and yet stay true to our ethical core.”

Collaboration & Expansion
Gurpreet maintains that the People Tree collaborations with various artists have been a very organic process. She shares, “A project comes along, you really like it, its ethical and everything starts coming together.” Gurpreet reveals, “The block printing studio in Kaladera, Rajasthan with whom we do most of our block printing has ended up becoming far more financially successful than we have!” Gurpreet believes that the advantaged section of India must share the responsibility of promoting our rich tradition of artisanship. People Tree now has a presence in several cities in India including Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Goa and Pondicherry. Gurpreet says, “Actually a lot of rapid growth has happened in the last couple of years. The coming years are going to be challenging, I have no idea where all I am going to go. We are out of our safety zone – out there in the market without any subsidy, without any support. I am dealing with all the challenges of a small-scale business. Nevertheless, I am very confident. My team and I, we have the ability to reinvent ourselves.”

Message to Aspiring Women Entrepreneurs
Gurpreet believes that it is crucial for aspiring women entrepreneurs to have a sound knowledge of the financial aspect of their business. She shares, “I was not brought up to be able to look at finance. In my generation, many women had a lack of confidence in the financial sphere because sub-consciously we were made to believe that we would be looked after. I still struggle with financial decisions. I therefore urge women entrepreneurs to equip themselves in this aspect before plunging into their business venture.”

Gurpreet is truly a pioneer in ethical design, eco-fashion and fair trade in India. She exemplifies the perfect blend of aesthetics and ethics. At WEBO Power, we wish Gurpreet the very best in her future ventures and hope that People Tree will continue to flourish, nurture and inspire the generations to come.

Interviewed By: Supriya Mathur, Team WEBO Power
Posted On: April 01, 2013

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4 Comments on “Gurpreet Sidhu – Pioneer of ethical design & fair trade in India”

  1. Fatema Jaliwala #

    I really admire and appreciate the work done by People Tree, truly amazing! So happy to have read about Ma’am here

    May 22, 2013 at 6:45 am Reply
  2. Fatema Jaliwala #

    I am a very big fan of your work, and truly proud of your work ideologies!, delighted to read about you!

    May 22, 2013 at 6:41 am Reply


  1. People Tree v. Dior: IP Infringement, Cultural Appropriation or Both? | SpicyIP - February 1, 2018

    […] ‘People Tree’ began 25 years ago, simply as a creative space. It was an initiative by Orijit Sen & Gurpreet Sidhu, two design graduates, who wanted to curate a space for free, inspired creative expression. Soon, the collective – which had by then become “a meeting ground” for many likeminded artists and creatives – blossomed into a socio-commercial initiative. By that, I mean that the art created by artists is just one part of a wonderful process. The artwork created by the artists of ‘People Tree’, is taken to Rajasthan where the artists help the artisans in carving their works into blocks. Once that is done, the block printing is done on fabric, which is then dyed with natural dyes. After that, this finished fabric is sent to be stitched into garments by socially marginalised women’s and children’s groups. The block-printing technique used by ‘People Tree’ has its origins in Kaladera, Rajasthan and was introduced to Sidhu & Sen in 1992. (For more insight into this laudable initiative, please see here, here and here) […]

  2. Gurpreet Sidhu – Pioneer of ethical design & fair trade in India | Desi Grrlz - April 27, 2013

    […] via Gurpreet Sidhu – Pioneer of ethical design & fair trade in India | WEBO Power. […]

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