Week in Fabric: June 5th, 2018


What's Inspiring Us From The Global Material Landscape

A grouping of blocks, chiseled by specialized carvers, in traditional patterns. Each color requires a separate block. Credit, Abhishek Bali

The Ancient Indian Art of Jaipur Block Printing

In Bagru, Rajasthan lies a densely populated village of 30,000 people with concrete home-workshops scattered throughout. This remote town is home to the chippas, an ancient caste of textile printers who stamp cotton fabric with  hand-carved wooden blocks. All villagers learn the craft from the story telling of previous generations, tracing back three centuries. Even though the craft of printing designs onto fabrics originated in China about 4,500 years ago, it wasn’t until the prints arrived on the Indian subcontinent where the hand-blocked fabric reached its highest visual expression. This was due in part to the Indians expertise in extraction of natural plant dyes. Their most traditional dyes; Mordants (metallic salts that both create color and allow it to adhere to fabric)  and Dabu (mud resist-printing) flourish in these regions.

The caste system, which includes wood carvers, chippas / dabu printers, dyers and dhobis (washers), is a deeply interdependent process. It is important to understand some local terminology. Chi ( means "to dye") and pa ("to leave something to bask in the sun") and chappana (“stamping” in Hindi) are the most important terms that outline this tradition. 

Anokhi along with a new wave of small, artisan-dedicated companies, such as LA-based Block Shop, have helped keep both a village and block print techniques completely grounded in-line with their regional techniques and expertise, ranging from plant and mineral-based mordant printing to kantha stitching.

Le Souk proudly sponsors block-printed textile producers, like Triburg. View their block-printed silks and cottons below.  


These exquisite hand-crafted silks from our partner Triburg in India have a surprising variability that occurs between the initial drawing and  finished product. In Bagru, for instance, a handmade textile passes through weavers, vat dyers, mordant brewers, mud resist printers, block printers and washers. And between every stage, each piece is left to dry on a field in the sun, where it could be subject to rain, humidity, passing motorbikes, and the roaming cows, and again worked on by a particular person who could be tired or distracted, using colors that can vary according the batch of harda nuts or pomegranates used to mix the dye that day.


Material Details - Dabu Print

Dabu, a form of mud-resist hand-block printing is a unique printing technique practiced mostly by the Chippa community in the state of Rajasthan, India. It is a long and complicated manual process, but the outcome is stunning - various shades of ground and motif colour interplay beautifully as a result of the printing and overprinting that is characteristic of this technique. A special type of clay paste called "dabu" (which lends its name to the technique) is block printed onto the fabric and acts as a resist. The cloth is then ready to be dyed in the chosen color. The process may be repeated for double dabu and triple dabu and so on. The non-dyed part, where the resist has been applied, is revealed after washing. Some of the color penetrates onto the fabric caused by mud cracking, which results in veining returning a batik-like look to the fabric. The dabu technique of block printing is yet another example of Indian textile heritage whose beauty and aesthetic cannot be machine simulated. There may be minor differences in actual colors from the swatch. This is an inherent characteristic of this hand block printing technique which uses vegetable dyes, printing in lots and is dependent on climatic conditions. Characteristic imperfections associated with hand block printing may be observed, and colours may fade or bleed due to the traditional dyeing and printing process employed. Dabu block prints from Triburg are available in roll length of 5-10 yards

From The New York Times Style Magazine. Continue here

The Ethics of Wearing Feathers

The red carpet has been a hotbed of sartorial protest this year, with influential people opting to express their politics through their wardrobe. Marabou, ostrich, and peacock feathers have stolen the show at the Critic's Choice awards, the Cannes Film Festival, and the Met Gala. Feathers are suddenly everywhere again, but there is a growing discomfort with them.

"[its] colours, its graphics, its weightlessness and its engineering” - Alexander McQueen opinion of feathers

Many shoppers are still unaware of the cruelty inherent in the down and feather industries, unlike fur and exotic skins. Can feathers be ethical? Peta claims that “workers in China – the source of 80% of the world’s down – forcefully restrain geese and rip their feathers out as they struggle and scream” Clearly, live-plucking is not, but finding and collecting feathers that have fallen from birds naturally is accepted yet non-viable for a business model. 

Lupita Nyong’o at the Cannes film festival this month. 

Katy Perry at the 2018 Met Gala this month. 

Peta suggests that designers make vegan alternatives to animal products from recycled and sustainable materials, just as British designer Stella McCartney does for leather, but in an ideal world it wants all retailers to follow the lead of Topshop, Sweaty Betty and Asos by banning feathers from their products. Retailers need to provide production-chain transparency, winning trust with specific policies that inform shoppers that their feathers have been responsibly sourced.

From The Guardian. Continue here

The South-American Native Chic: Henequen & Sansevieria Fiber

Henequen, scientifically known as Agave fourcroydes, is a monocarpic, rosette forming succulent plant. The plants fibers were used to package goods for the newly industrialized world, well before the invention of plastic.

In 1898, when the Spanish–American War broke out, the price of fiber advanced rapidly. The supplies of Manila hemp were interrupted on account of the war conditions in the Philippine Islands, and that caused an advance in the price of henequen. That sudden advance in the price brought great wealth to Yucatán and it immediately became the richest state in Mexico.

The design of these packaged products from plant fibers date back to the ancient artisan techniques of Yucatán. The fibers from these plants have been used for centuries by artisans to produce crafts as well as utilitarian products, such as hammocks, for daily life. Local communities are creating newer, more valuable textiles and products from plant fibers using their traditional techniques with the aim  of improving the economy in rural communities and preserving traditions that are at risk of disappearing. 

From Trend Tablet. Continue here

The Angora goat is a breed of domesticated goat that is named after Ankara, Turkey, historically known as Angora. Angora goats produce the lustrous fibre known as mohair.

South African Mohair Industry Threatened by H&M, Inditex Ban

A ban on mohair by dozens of clothing retailers, including Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) and Esprit Holdings, is threatening a 1.5 billion rand ($117 million) industry in South African, the worlds largest producer of mohair fibers.  Approximately 70 clothing retailers worldwide have announced the termination of mohair threads, in response to PETA's cruel video footage released from a sample of Angora goat farms nestled in South Africa's Karoo region. Please be advised, the video shows goats being dragged by their legs and horns while sustaining injuries from shearing blades during hair collection, along with other graphic content. There are currently ~1,000 goat farms which employ 30,000 people in the region. The #MohairFree movement could affect the livelihood of every farmer. 

From Bloomberg. Continue here

IMG Reliance & British Council to Support Female Textile Artisans

Together, the IMG Reliance and British Council signed an agreement to bring the global 'Crafting Futures' program to India to support the country's female textile artisans.  IMG Reliance, a recently formed conglomerate valued over $24 Billion USD, plans to create "India's first Super Agency", which will offer 360 degree management to celebrities from the worlds of sports, Bollywood, fashion and lake Fashion Week. The British Council, the UK's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations and IMG Reliance LTD, signed an operational alliance agreement for a project to support female artisan textiles in India.

Under the agreement, the project, named 'A Telegram from Tripura', brings UK designer Bethany Williams and Indian designer Aratrik Dev Varman of the label Tilla together to explore new fashion systems and approaches with female textile artisans in the northeastern region. The aim is to grow their livelihoods and economic opportunities through responding to a creative brief set by Fashion Revolution, an organisation that celebrates fashion as a positive influence, while also scrutinising industry practices and raising awareness of the most pressing issues facing the fashion industry. 

From The Quint. Continue here