Thursday, July 30, 2015

Inspired by Maria's Craft

Last night I was working with my sample maker seamstress, Maria. She only speaks Portuguese and is the finest tailor I've ever experienced. She can nuance a turned hem like no one I've ever seen, and I've worked with tailors in India, Indonesia and New York. Sometimes, since we have to operate on images, sign language and gestures and at last resort google translate, we get our signals crossed. Sometimes she cuts out a tiny version of a pattern on paper and puts it together for me so we can have a little 3-d version to agree on.

I'm not great at sketching - I never went through formal design school training - so sometimes it gets lost in translation.

Usually she goes way above and beyond what I asked her for. Once I asked her to make a skirt with a fabric that had spots of dark blue and light blue. I told her 'only use the dark blue area, not the light blue splotches.' I came back and she had made two skirts, one dark blue, one light blue. Oy.  
When we first started working together, I remember I would have to take a breath before getting out of my car and entering her office. I just never knew if I was going to be completely delighted or holding my head in my hands. But even in the worst misunderstandings, I am amazed at the breadth of her skills.

But we have gotten a groove down. We understand each other a lot better now.

The last couple of evenings, I've been going to her office after work to learn from her and help her with the little stuff. I cut bias trim and fuse it with interfacing and sometimes do a bit of sewing. She holds so many secrets on how to make beautiful clothing, I'm eager to learn more from her. I have to know these details in order to instruct the factory that will make the final production run.  

She's meticulous and exacting in a way that you rarely find anymore. She's a true tailor, who can size you up and cut a garment without a pattern. She told me once that her father was a tailor and her mother was a seamstress - she has been in the workroom as long as she can remember. She does everything the old fashioned way, taking the time to cut the garment so the stripes line up, sewing a french seam to ensure the joints don't rip. She has reverence for the fabric and how to cut it.

Which is why it makes me sad that she has to clean houses instead of do what she does best. She used to work two days out of the week cleaning houses and because of the work I've been giving her, now it's down to one day.If I had the funds, I'd hire her as my design assistant and set up a workroom around her. I have a weakness for people like Maria, people who are so skilled and care so much about the quality of their work. I feel the same about the weavers we work with. When I meet people like this, nothing could make me happier than employing them and keeping them working in their profession with dignity and fair compensation.

If I had the funds, I'd hire her as my design assistant and set up a workroom around her. I have a weakness for people like Maria, people who are so skilled and care so much about the quality of their work. I feel the same about the weavers we work with. When I meet people like this, nothing could make me happier than employing them and keeping them working in their profession with dignity and fair compensation

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Indigo Handloom Back on Kickstarter!

We learned so much from our first Kickstarter campaign - we learned that we need to start smaller, we learned how to communicate with our supporters, and we learned a lot about what you, our community, are expecting of us. We consider ourselves lucky to have such an enthusiastic group of supporters behind us, and because we have heard so much demand for the products that we want to produce, we have decided to get out there and give this thing another try!

So next week, on Monday, August 3, we will be re-launching on Kickstarter. In this new campaign we will be aiming to raise just $15,000. This is the bare minimum that we can work with to create our new collection while sticking to the sustainability principles that drive us.

The core values of Indigo Handloom include:
  • creating viable jobs for handloom artisans in rural India.
  • creating beautiful products without damaging the planet.
  • creating jobs right here in the U.S.A. by assembling the highest quality sewn garments in San Francisco.

Doing business with integrity costs a little bit more money than doing it the other way, but we are committed to our core values and we are determined to make this work.
If you were a donor or a cheerleader for us in our last campaign, we are asking you to step up and help us out one more time.

The first day of a Kickstarter campaign is the most important, so if you did support us before, please be sure to make the same pledge on August 3rd. If we are able to reach 20% of our goal on the first day of our campaign, Kickstarter will feature us on their front page, which will allow us to reach even more people and ultimately hit our new goal.

We ask that you email, text, call, or tag three of your friends on or before Monday to tell them about Indigo Handloom.

If you are able to reach out to just three people for us, you will help our success grow immensely! Think of friends, family or coworkers who may appreciate our story or our dedication to sustainability, not just people who love beautiful clothing. We have added some new, non-apparel rewards for those who want to support but don’t need anything in their closets. We know that our mission is powerful and believe that our message will resonate with so many people who have yet to hear of us!

We are so grateful for every one of you who has supported us in the past and we would be incredibly happy to see you do so again. We will be sending out a reminder email on Monday when our new campaign goes live, so stay tuned!

Friday, July 10, 2015

10 Reasons to Support Indigo Handloom Today

You can support us on Kickstarter now! Just click here.

#10 Redemption - We’ve all done it, bought the $5 t-shirt at H&M because it was easy and too cheap to pass up. Well, today, we are stopping to think about how little the factory worker making those shirts must be earning in order for that price to be so low. Now we are going to manufacture appropriately-priced clothing in the US city that has one of the highest minimum wages in the world - San Francisco! #MadeInAmerica

#9 The Dress - We have created a truly amazing garment: our Ikat Maxi Dress. Every woman likes to have an hourglass figure, and this dress does it - whether you are a size 2 or 14. We are able to do it by cutting it on the bias, which creates a natural ease. Then we added elastic ruching to the back to create structure and cinch the waist. We’ve had a range of different sized women try on this dress and it’s so impressive how good they look! Because we know it’s hard to buy clothing online, we have a full refund policy in place if you are not completely satisfied, but we’re pretty sure you’ll be happy with this one.

We want to reward the people who believe in us and are ready to see these beautiful garments out in the world!

#8 Quality - Your $5 t-shirt from H&M is falling apart the minute you take it out of the store. Why do we burden ourselves with more items that can’t stand the test of time? Instead, we aim to curate our closets with beautiful pieces that will last us for the rest of our lives. Wear your Indigo Handloom garments every day and enjoy them as much on day 500 as you did on day 1.

#7 Be More Like Ghandi - We live by this quote:

“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.” - Mahatma Gandhi.

Gandhi understood that handloom creates work with dignity. He also knew that it had the power to start a revolution, which it actually did. We want to start a different kind of revolution - a sustainable fashion revolution, one that also puts handloom at the center. #ethicalFashion

#6 Women - Over half of our weavers are women, and one average, each woman supports 8 family members. It’s been proven over and over again; when you invest in women and girls, you will change the world. A woman’s money is more likely to go back into the community than a man’s dollars, so we are proud to be supporting women who in turn, support their community. We care about our weavers and the communities that they support. We care about their health, our own health, and that of our friends. We want to support and celebrate all of the people in this chain of production, but we can’t do that without you, our people.
#artisans #handloom #handwoven #ethicalFashion #eco-conscious

#5 Community - It really does take a village and we consider you part of ours. The way that people are treated in one part of the world does have an effect on the rest of us, so help us to provide a community of weavers with autonomy, dignity and fair wages. We feel that this quote sums it up pretty well:

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” - John Muir. #artisans

#4 Preserve - Help this endangered industry stay alive. Many of the ancient textile arts, all of which play a huge part in human history, are quickly disappearing from the world. Modern technology has given us so much and benefited all of us, but it has also taken the soul and livelihood of so many crafts and craftsmen around the world. We want to support craft and craftsmen and encourage our history to live for another generation.  #slowFashion

#3 Sustainable - Handloom weaving requires zero energy, that’s right, zero. Our weavers do not use one kilowatt of energy or even one little lump of coal to create this gorgeous cloth. In a world where there is a hunger for electricity, we think that saving every little bit counts. #sustainable

#2 Job Creation - We talk a lot about how garment factories supply people with jobs, even if they are dangerous and undesirable jobs. What if we could supply people with good, desirable jobs? Well, #handloom weaving creates 9 times as many jobs as one industrial weaving machine. We create jobs not just in India - but in the U.S. as well. We are committed to manufacturing in this country, even if it means a lower profit margin, because job creation drives us.

#1 Good Juju: - Everything has energy. The money we earn, the things we put into our home, the people we encounter. Choosing handloom is good karma. You are not only allowing craftsmen and women to thrive, you are adding to your positive energy! It’s what keeps us going in this crazy world, no matter where we live. We buy flowers for the table and paintings for our walls, we gild our buildings and adorn our bodies because beautiful energy inspires us and makes us alive. #Handloom is not only an ancient craft, but also an exquisitely beautiful one. Touch our fabrics and feel the difference! We refer to this quote again because it means so much:

“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.” - Mahatma Gandhi.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Folkloric Scarf

At Indigo Handloom, we work with techniques that are not possible in a modern mill. One of these techniques, called ‘matka,’ is used to create our “Folklore” scarf, which is a favorite of ours this season.

Matka silk is made by using parts of the silk that would normally be considered as waste. Conventional silk is made from the long, middle section of a silk strand, while matka utilizes the first and last few meters of the strand. The beginning and end of the silk strand are not used in conventional silk because they are too delicate to withstand machine weaving, however, because handloom weaving is much gentler on fiber, we are able to use these normally discarded bits of silk to create gorgeous matka silks.

Another wonderful property of matka silk is that its fibers are hand spun. The hand spinning process, combined with a substance called seracin, give matka silks their unique texture. Seracin is secreted by the moth as it spins its cocoon, lending strength and an off-white color to the silk fiber. Conventional silk fibers are washed before being woven, getting rid of the seracin and producing a more shiny, uniform fabric. Though matka silk does not have that silky sheen, it is much stronger because of the seracin.

In addition to strength, seracin provides visual and physical irregularity to matka silk. We absolutely love the soft, nubby texture of matka silk. That same texture gives our silk a distinctive weight that translates to a gorgeous drape on the body. Our “Folklore” scarf in ivory is left undyed so that you can see the beauty in the matka fabric. The color, the drape and the feel of our scarf all work together to create something that is truly luxurious.

Our “Folklore” scarf is finished with a beautiful, hand embroidered border as well as a mandala in the center. The embroidery technique we use is called ‘kantha,’ which is a very simple yet beloved technique. Kantha refers to a simple, straight stitch which is used all over the world.

In India, kantha has a special history. It was often used to stitch together old pieces of fabric or saris in the interest of repurposing these prized materials in new ways. Kantha is often called the grandmother stitch as it was used while women would sit together making quilts for their families.

The combined beauty of kantha embroidery on matka silk is unmatched in conventional fashions or any of our past collections. The weight of the matka fabric is complemented by the heavy edging of kantha stitching, creating a beautiful and luxurious drape. The “Folklore” scarf is a true expression of these ancient techniques at their best.

Luckily, we are offering this scarf along with some of our other hand woven products at discounted prices on our Kickstarter campaign! While this scarf would normally cost you $169 through Anthropologie, or $150 through our website, you can get it for the next 15 days for just $125 as a reward for supporting us on Kickstarter. For your donation you will receive all of the rich culture behind our “Folklore” scarf as well as the satisfaction of supporting that culture and the future of handloom in India.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Varanasi handloom cluster cries for help
May 9, 2011

Note: this article reminds me of how often I see bridal shops – even in India – that are full of cheap, milled fabric or even just nylon netting with beads. Handloom saris have become so difficult to find. ~ Smita

[Summary] Even with 4-Billion INR annual turnover for Banarasi handloom, this artisan craft struggles to survive. While the Banarasi weaver is still valued for their ‘exclusive’ brocades, these designs are more easily replicated by mills. Another challenge is meeting the demands of export buyers without any guidance. Whether high-end or lower-end, Banaras handloom generally sells as saris, and a mere 2% - 3% is estimated to be exported. The Banaras weave industry lacks the marketing systems to attract and meet orders for overseas markets, and lacks the market branding to develop a dedicated customer base.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

THis article which appears in validates what we at Indigo Handloom have been advocating for many years - that the production of khadi and handloom in general have a very low carbon footprint. Khadi is the ultimate sustainable fabric!

Khadi textile fabrics have lowest carbon footprint – Designer
March 17, 2011 (India)

“The biggest advantage of wearing khadi textiles is that it carries the lowest carbon footprint among all textiles, which makes it a sustainable fabric”, said a noted textile designer.

Ahmedabad is playing host to a month long ‘Khadi Utsav’ in which more than 273 stalls have been set up, displaying khadi products from across various states of India.

The fair which began on March 6 will run till April 6, 2011. It will also feature a fashion show on March 18, where models will showcase khadi clothing designed by top-notch Ahmedabad based designers.

‘Brand Khadi’ a theme pavilion, one of the highlights of the trade fair, explains the origin of the khadi, including Mahatma Gandhi’s ideology woven around khadi.

Khadi textiles are normally made from 100 percent cotton, but nowadays cotton/polyester blended khadi fabrics and clothing are also available.

Khadi textiles apart from being eco-friendly are sustainable and also harmless to the skin. Production of one meter khadi fabric consumes just three litres water against 55 litres consumed in a conventional textile mill.

Yesterday, the organizers had organised a buyer-seller meet in which most of the khadi cooperatives from Gujarat as well as buyers, which included exporters were present.

According to estimates provided by Mr Punamchand Parmar (IAS) and Member Secretary – Gujarat State Khadi and Village Industries Board, they had targeted a turnover of Rs 40 million from the Utsav, but now hope to cross Rs 50 million, looking at the steady stream of buyers.

Mr Vadibhai Patel, Chairman - Khadi Gramudhyog Board said, “Our efforts are towards getting the younger generation interested in Khadi textile products. We are also trying to modernize the spinning charkha as well as the handlooms on which khadi textiles are produced”.

Speaking to Fibre2fashion, Mr Punamchand Parmar informed, “Gujarat government provides rebate to consumers for a period of 108 days in a year. There is also market development assistance from Government of India. Apart from which, the Khadi Gramudhyog Board organises Khadi trade fairs across the year in various towns and cities of Gujarat.

“Gujarat gives 65 percent subsidy for purchase and repair of khadi production machinery, apart from which the Board provides spinning and weaving assistance. There is also an artisan welfare fund, modernization fund and life insurance coverage for Khadi workers”, he added by saying.

When asked as to why khadi fabrics are expensive, he replied by saying that, “Since khadi products are spun by hand and also woven on handlooms, the labour cost is very high, due to which cost of khadi fabrics is high. However, the government provides rebate to consumers to make khadi affordable”.

However Mr AD Choudhary, State Director - Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) had a different take on the issue of high prices of khadi fabrics and clothing.

He said, “The actual range of a khadi shirt begins from just Rs 275 and moves upwards. The quality is comparable with cotton or synthetic products. In fact, apart from exports done by KVIC, there are a lot of entrepreneurs who are exporting khadi textile products, too.

“However what needs to be seen is that clothing made from khadi fabrics are the most suitable for the hot and humid Indian weather, apart from which by buying a khadi product, a consumer is directly helping the lowest strata of society, who are involved in khadi production”, he wrapped up by saying.

Mr Anupam Mazumdar, Director - Genesis Design, a textile design consultancy and also a die-hard khadi fan however had the last word on the inherent quality of khadi when he noted by saying, “The biggest advantage of wearing khadi is that it carries the lowest carbon footprint among all textiles, which makes it a sustainable fabric”.

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Desi Weaves With Modern Sensibilities

December 24, 2010 10:15:34 AM

Be it Benarasi silk on Assamese silhouettes or traditional ghagra-choli from Rajasthan, the designer fraternity whetted its skills and presented a beautiful blend of Indian and contemporary designs in a fashion show as part of the Handloom Week 2010 presently going on at Dilli Haat. An initiative by the Ministry of Textiles and the office of Development Commissioner Handlooms, the show was supported by the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) and depicted Indian culture, crafts and handloom that constitute the bedrock of India’s heritage.

To be in-sync with traditional textiles and present them in a manner that makes even the most choosy fashionistas sing praises, Guwahati-based designer Meghna Rai Medhi came up with an interesting combination of two different cultures. The entire collection had Benarasi and Assamese sensibilities. Coming from a place where “every woman weaves”, Medhi said, helped her create the designs. “I used Benarasi raw silk and brocade pattis and borders that we weave in the Northeast and created contemporary designs. The fabric was kept as traditional as possible. Although the patterns too were traditional, they were only modernized into chic outfits,” she said.

Designer Anju Modi too reflected the ancient traditions of Indian craftsmanship through rich heritage of Rajasthan. From Mughal angarkhas with draped pants and saris to long flowing jackets that were teamed up with lehengas, Modi used handloom weaves, mainly handloom cotton, silk and Jamdani fabric to the fullest. “I researched for months to go along with this collection and have tried to exemplify the beauty, style, art, craft, music and richness of Rajasthan on the ramp,” said Modi.

From a dash of indigo blue to white with a touch of gold, her garments had the rich feel of the royal city. “I think I’m married to handloom. Even when I started my career, I spent days with traditional artisans, living with them and learning their skills. I’ve been working with these artisans to revitalize the legacy of the handloom sector across the country,” she added.

Payal Jain, who has maintained a balance of traditional techniques and chic designs in almost all her collections, this time presented a flash of white on the ramp with formal skirts and coats to short dresses and traditional suits. With intricate hand embroidery all over, Jain’s collection spoke for itself. “I’ve always used Indian textiles in my clothes, so much so, that I’ve now developed my own textiles,” said Jain.

This initiative, said Dayanidhi Maran, Union Minister of Textiles, was just one in the series of shows that have been planned. “We want the world to know that traditional Indian crafts can be presented in a contemporary way also. I am hopeful that this show will attract the attention of designers, retailers and wholesalers who are looking to source the handloom products for the high-end market,” he said.