Living in India, I developed a growing love for the rich textile heritage I discovered during my work and travels. Stunning silk and wool embroidery made by women in remote villages in the mountains of Srinagar, for example; women there are able, in need and are extremely eager to earn a living to support their families and themselves but simply have no way to make this happen. Most of the women we work with are bound to their homes for societal and religious reasons, and do not have the option of working outside their homes. The textiles themselves represents the culture and history of their people, which makes it fascinating as well as beautiful, while its creation offers a safe and dignified livelihood option for these women.
For us as a brand and for our customers, authenticity is very important – the story of the product is just as valuable as the final product. A hand spun, hand woven scarf will always be more beautiful to us than a power loom scarf, mass produced in a factory; the small imperfections and uniqueness tell us that the scarf has played an important role in another person’s life, as they sat for days or weeks weaving it.
These past few months while in the states, I have spent close to every weekend getting up early and heading to trade shows JUST to share the stories of the most inspirational people in my life, our partnered artisans. My parents have decided to join me in this journey of building up my brand because the products that we sell are more than just commodities and items that a person can buy; each piece that is sold tells a different story that is deeply rooted in the culture and religion of the person who has created it. I live life as a messenger to share the powerful stories that I experience through my travels, especially if I’m immersed into a passion of mine that I have a strong and deep connection to. My parents will continue to be a messenger of these stories while I head back to India over the next few weeks to work with them once again.
When I first traveled to India in 2014, I went on a textile tour to Kutch from Ahmedabad, India because I wanted to be exposed to some of India’s finest artisanal textiles and master artisans. I was so fascinated by the natural-dying process and how they are able to make some of the most beautiful shawls and fabric using turmeric and indigo. I once read in a blog post:
“Indeed, the Indian thread is something of an arterial lifeline that connects the spirit of this vast nation. And though the “Made in India” brand hasn’t been cultivated, protected or promoted nearly as much as “Made in France” or “Made in Italy,” it’s no secret that many of the top international fashion brands use Indian craftsmen”.-Bandana Tewuru, columnist of the Business of Fashion, London.
Although artisans may collaborate with design consultants who bring differing perspectives on innovation and designs, the appropriation of creativity requires careful intra-and intercultural negotiation. It is important that a careful negotiation is discussed to make sure that the artisan culture and identity that is ingrained into the textiles does not become decontextualized. Our enterprise has instilled a business model that allows artisans to develop new prototypes to suit the tastes and preferences of contemporary market using their traditional skills and designs. In other words, they’re studying the trends of the market and developing and enhancing those trends, while also applying their creative perspectives.
It’s almost difficult to comprehend just how powerful the Indian thread is, especially when there is a deep cultural and religious significance to each and every design that is either embroidered or block-printed into a piece of fabric. I have traveled to many countries and each country brings its own authenticity in culture and religion, but there was just something about India and fashion that intrigued me the most. When I met Mr. Sakir, the owner of a women’s cooperative we have partnered up with in Ahmedabad, he went into great detail about how he gains inspiration for Muslim designs that are carved into a block and infused into a piece of fabric.
He spends a lot of time training women artisans the art of blockprinting so that they one day are able to start their own businesses and become self-sufficient. Mr. Sakir explains:
“This art, and the closest form of it, is something we work on day and night to strive to reach its best form. We work tirelessly to ensure that this art doesn’t die out and become extinct. This art originates from the Mughal Kings and Royal families. When there were no machines, this was the only way to create beautiful items fit for the Kings and Queens of the Mughal dynasty. Now, even after machines have come into existence, we are still continuing this tradition that was started by the Mughal Sultanates, despite slowly coming towards an end. And this tradition is usually passed down from grandfathers and fathers. Both my grandparents, all of my cousins, and I have been doing this since childhood and just to keep that as a remembrance, I have worked so hard to maintain this art. If you go to the interiors of India, especially the interiors of Ahmedabad, you’ll find all of the old temples and mosques of the old times. You can see the styles of the Mughal Sultanate and using that exact theme, we have created the designs of our blocks. That’s where we gain inspiration for our designs”. – Mr. Sakir
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