'The fabric of freedom'

International Princess Project to hold its annual benefit gala in Huntington Beach on Saturday. The nonprofit aims to help free Indian women from prostitution.

September 21, 2011|By Imran Vittachi
  • Julie Wood -- the executive director for the nonprofit, the International Princess Project -- shows off a pair of Punjammies at the company's headquarters in Costa Mesa. The nonprofit helps former Indian prostitutes out by giving them jobs as seamstresses and then sells the Punjammies here.
Julie Wood -- the executive director for the nonprofit,… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

The International Princess Project headquarters near John Wayne Airport stocks thousands of pairs of brilliantly-colored, batik-style drawstring pants known as PUNJAMMIES.

This trademarked line of textile wear with an Indian twist targets Western women as a market, including the fashion-minded yoga set, through a word play on "pajamas."

Women in Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and elsewhere in Orange County now promote IPP's mission by hosting so-called "PUNJAMMY Parties" at their homes — all for a good cause, freeing women from the international sex trade.

The cotton pajamas bottoms are made by hand and push-pedal sewing machines operated by women in India, who are trying to put back together the seams of their own lives tattered by coercion into prostitution.

Since the mid-2000s, the International Princess Project, a faith-based nonprofit, has worked to support Indian women by rescuing them from the underworld of the forced sex trade and by providing them with fair trade wages, housing and health care and helping them build up micro-enterprises through the fabrication of PUNJAMMIES, IPP leaders said.


On Saturday night at the Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach, the nonprofit will host the Fabric of Freedom Gala, its annual benefit fundraiser.

"We want to be change agents in the world of forced prostitution or human trafficking …," said Heather Motichko, one of the International Princess Project's board members and co-chairwoman of this year's gala. "The thread of hope, dignity and purpose becomes the fabric of freedom."

The benefit is sold out. Nonetheless, the organization, which mainly sells its product via its website and through aforementioned PUNJAMMY Parties, is always looking for donors as well as prospective vendors and retailers for its product. IPP also relies on private donations and grants from nonprofits, such as the Newport Beach-based Tarsadia Foundation, started by a local Indian-American family.

"We are really hoping for a good amount of money to be raised," said Executive Director Julie Wood. "We are growing and want to be able to continue to grow."

Women and girls in developing countries, including India, are believed to be caught up in human trafficking, and many of them are forced into, or even enslaved, by the sex trade, according to women's rights experts and advocacy groups such as IPP.

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