An Interview with Mayura Kona: Changing the World One Thread at a Time

Mayura Kona, designer and founder of One Thread Fair Trade, created her business of handmade, Indian silk pillows to help make our world a better place. Her beautiful designs not only enhance the homes and businesses of her customers, they improve the lives of her female artisans, who have overcome difficult circumstances of abuse and poverty to develop their crafts and earn livings to support their families.

Clayton Gray Home now carries One Thread's Silk Leaf Pillows in five bold colors, handcrafted and signed by the courageous artisans who made them.

Each pillow's signed label tells the buyer who made it, along with her core belief as she looks to a hopeful future. You'll find the complete stories of these amazing artisans on the One Thread Fair Trade web site.

We recently asked Mayura a series of questions about her business, design, and inspiration. In reading her answers, we hope you are as inspired as all of us at Clayton Gray Home are.

Who or what inspired you to start your One Thread Fair Trade business?

The plight of battered and disadvantaged women is an issue that has deeply concerned me since adolescence. During my visits to India over the course of my childhood, I have witnessed the horrors that women in my native country face, from being beaten by their husbands to being sold off as sex workers. I saw many women who worked in my relatives’ houses, women I knew personally, go through experiences such as these. To read about these stories in the paper is one thing. To see it happen to women you care about is a staggering, painful experience that changes you forever.

Three years ago, I was inspired to take action against this reality when I met Sandhya. She ran an non-profit, Vijay Foundation Trust (VFT), and an orphanage in my mother’s hometown, a small town called Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh, India. Upon finding a severely beaten woman left for the dead in a field near her home, Sandhya began to take in destitute women and training them in textile arts. I saw the immense potential in combining my design skills with the women’s tailoring skills to both improve their lives and create a successful business. I had been working as an Art Director at a major apparel licensing company and although I loved my job, I did not feel fulfilled. I simply did not feel that I was using my education, privilege, and design skills to do something good for humanity, to improve the world in which we all live in. It was from my encounter with Sandhya that the idea was born. I have spent the last two years developing the fair trade unit in Kadapa and now, the organization has finally reached the launch stage.

What is your education, design, and family background?

My family is from India and my mother is actually from the Kadapa District, where our current artisans reside. I grew up in Upland, CA with my parents and older sister (and our dogs). I have a BA in Design/Media Arts from UCLA and an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. After design school, I worked as the Art Director for a major licensing company creating graphics and patterns for apparel. It was a fantastic job that gave me a lot of exposure to textiles, printing, and pattern designing.

Describe the design inspiration for your silk leaf pillow collection?

As a designer, my eye has always been attracted to patterns. I observe and am inspired by patterns everywhere around us, whether it is the arrangement of roof tiles on a house or the veins in a maple leaf. The inspiration behind our launch line is leaves. I believe that nature is the one thing that all human beings find to be universally beautiful, and I wanted to design a collection that captured that beauty in a modern way. Every pattern in the leaf collection represents different views of a leaf. For example, the Linear design is clearly based off the basic shape of a leaf. The Leaf design is a closer view of a leaf, highlighting the veins within a leaf. The Jewels design is an even more magnified view of a leaf, highlighting the actual cells that make up the leaf’s texture. My designs start as ink drawings in my sketchbook. The drawings are later scanned into the computer and vectorized for screenprinting. There is an intangible quality that you achieve when you begin the design process with your own hand drawings, without any use of technology. I find that initial stage of creation imperative to achieve authentic design.

What are the benefits of hand-crafted Indian silk and hand loom weaving?

The benefits of using hand loom silks are many. First, hand loom weaving is vastly better for the environment than power loom weaving. Basically, a power loom is a huge machine that automates the weaving process and requires little human labor. Therefore, power loom fabrics require less labor and emit a significant amount of pollution. Hand loom weaving is all done by human hands and involves no machinery. As a result, handloom fabrics produce ZERO carbon emissions versus power loom fabrics that contribute large amounts of emissions into our environment. One job on a power loom sucks up as much energy as 20 vacuum cleaners running all day. Second, hand loom weaving supports up to 9 times more families as all of the work is done by hand. In India, there are hundreds of villages that survive on the art of hand loom weaving alone and many of these villages are facing dire poverty as the demand for hand loom fabrics has dropped significantly in the shadow of the quicker, cheaper power loom option. We are trying to support these hand loom weaving villages and their dying art, as well as have a better effect on our environment.

How did you choose the colors for your pillows?

I wanted our launch collection to be bright and striking. Therefore, I chose bright colors that are not only eye-catching but are also very common colors found in India. India is a very colorful country and the people themselves are adorned in brilliant colors daily. I wanted our colors to reflect that vibrancy and energy. I believe a good throw pillow must add life to a room and I think our colors do just that!

Why is it important for consumers to support the global community?

Now, more than ever, consumers need to be conscious of their purchasing power. There are many options when you shop but it is important to think about where the product is coming from and how it was made. Sweatshop and child labor is still highly prevalent in the developing world and by ignoring this truth, we are only perpetuating the practice. Consumers should try, to as much as their situations can permit, to be conscious of what they buy and understand the real world ramifications of their purchases.

How did you recruit your female artisans?

Currently, we are working specifically with the women in the Kadapa District in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. This was chosen as our flagship community simply because of the extreme atrocities these women face in their daily lives. According to the World Bank, rural women in Andhra Pradesh live in a state of extreme destitution, with 6.2 million women living below $1.25/day. Moreover, it is estimated that 70% of married rural women in A.P. are victims of battery, rape, or coerced sex. These statistics are simply jarring and unacceptable. Beyond domestic violence and extreme poverty, young rural women in India (estimated 20 million) are being forced to enter the flesh trade, which in many cases leads to the contraction of AIDS and early deaths. For all of the above reasons and more, we have chosen this community to empower. In the future, we would like to extend our reach to communities who are need all over the world. We focus on females as they are the center of the family unit and therefore, have the most influence over the next generation. If the mother is empowered, her children also tend to adopt the same level of self-confidence and will. Tending to the next generation is one of the most important parts of breaking through poverty.

We appreciate the time Mayura put into answering our questions, and we wish her the best with her growing business that can change the world for the better. You can help support her efforts by visiting Clayton Gray Home and choosing your favorite colored Silk Leaf pillow to purchase. Enjoy Free Shipping on all orders.



  1. This is an amazing article and truly highlights the vision of mayura kona. Watching Mayura the business woman is a breath of fresh air she genuinely cares about each of the girls that works with her. I wish her the best of luck and I hope many other business people are inspired to change the lives of others by being exposed to Mayura's passion.

  2. Thank you for your comment! We hope shoppers will support Mayura's efforts. She has a wonderful vision and is an inspiration for us all.

  3. It is so refreshing to hear about a business person inspired by the good she can do for the world, and not completely driven by money. Thank you for supporting One Thread Fair Trade and it's philanthropic cause.

  4. Truly inspiring... and meaningful. I can't wait to hear about future developments and endeavors.


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