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Defining Sustainability

Defining Sustainability

Classrooms are one of the best places to learn, we discovered last week. These are such exciting times to go back school, especially as an online student. Having signed up for a 5 week course on how to build and grow a sustainable fashion business, we hoped to be able to learn from industry best practises and engage with others in the field.
 
A relevant subject today for all those who work in the fashion industry and also for the more conscious consumers, sustainability can be interpreted in multiple ways, as we soon discovered during Week 1 of the course.
 
“Sustainable fashion means less consumption of fashion”. “Sustainability is about thinking in the consequences, how anything we do has consequences”. “Sustainability means maximising benefit to people and minimizing impact on the planet and environment”. “To me, being sustainable means causing minimal or no damage” – were some of the definitions of what sustainability meant to my course mates. Others raised questions about zero-waste fashion,  growing concepts such as the Circular Economy, while one cited the example of Lease a Jeans by Amsterdam-based company MUD jeans that allows consumers to rent/lease jeans and send them back to be recycled when they are done wearing them.  

And because there is no single definition for sustainability, businesses and individuals tend to choose aspects most applicable to their ideology and make those their business philosophy.
 
This discussion also got us thinking of Karigar’s definition of sustainability – our decision to work with beautiful natural materials, to stick to handmade and work with and re-train rural artisans to use skills that have been passed on to them through generations. By choosing to be a sustainable business, we have had to often say no – no to using synthetic yarns, no to mass production. We work with our artisans using fair trade principles, giving them the respect they deserve as makers of beautiful products. We document the creation of our products to give consumers an insight into the making of each design through our Talking Tag. We create designs that aren’t fashionable for just one season but designs that are season-less, encouraging consumers to wear our products over time and even pass them on to the next generation, in effect reducing waste.  We ensure the product stands the test of time by using natural materials to be treated with love and care.

But there is always that question of could we be doing more? For example, how can we ensure we use ALL the products we make, including the pieces that are unused? Better still, can we find consumers to accept the flaws and buy those textiles that we set aside for minor weaving or colour faults?
 
There is so much to learn in this world of unlimited access to information and data. Over the coming weeks we hope engage in some more relevant discussions and hope to get some answers from our peers in the fashion industry across the globe.
 
Text: Kanak Hirani Nautiyal
Pictures: Marloes van Doorn
 

Handmade, naturally

Handmade, naturally

The last time you tried to replicate a fabulous dinner you had previously cooked – how did that turn out?  Did the meal taste exactly the same as before? Did it even look the same as what you previously served up?
 
In case you’re wondering, this isn’t a cooking quiz. We’re just trying to get you to understand the complexity of handmade and accept its wonderful but unpredictable outcome.  Because anything and everything that is handmade, including your dinner, could look, feel, and in this case even taste slightly different each time. 
Our production process relies largely on the key roles that nature and humans play. The same dye can be a different shade of indigo, depending on the amount of sunshine the yarns get. The wild silk thread that is spun during the Indian monsoons can be heavier than in the summer as it absorbs more moisture. The human hand that spins the silk cocoon into yarn can never replicate the precision of a machine.
 
Right now, we are working with creating felted wool handmade rugs. So how difficult could it be to make the exactly the same piece again? The rug uses handspun wool (a manual process) and is also woven by hand, after which the felting is done by soaking in water and stamping it till it shrinks and softens. Let’s just say, we still haven’t been able to make the same rug twice.

So the next time your dinner tastes different or if your KARIGAR wool silk stole has yarns of uneven thickness or is slightly heavier than it was the previous time – treat is as the unique nature of handmade and remember that just like you, there is just one of its kind.
    
Text: Kanak Hirani Nautiyal
Pictures: Marloes van Doorn

Treasure Seeking in Gujarat

Treasure Seeking in Gujarat

Last winter we were in India for 3 months to visit our craftgroups and find new gems to start up new collaborations with. At the end of our trip in February we visited the extremely rich textile region of Gujarat in the West of India. This (winter) time of year the weather was great in this region where summer temperatures can get really hot -- up to 50 degrees celsius!

We investigated wool, silk and cottons in various woven, embroidered, (tie)dyed, blockprinted and felted techniques. Award-winning weavers showed us around their workshops and introduced us to the region-specific looms, techniques and patterns that are heavily influenced by various nomadic tribes that have been living here for years. We were blown away by the purity and authenticity that is still to be found in this region.

​Yarn spinning and dyeing are both preparations for weaving that are done on the spot. The looms used in Gujarat are merely 'pit looms' where the weaver and the warp are situated close to the ground. The floor absorbs the movements of the loom and the effect of gravity makes the weaving proces / fabrics more steady. On this type of loom the weavers are capable of weaving intricate geometric patterns across the fabric or just as an accent in the border.

Textiles are one of the oldest industries in the state. The state has managed to preserve its old tradition and culture. After a big earthquake in January 2001, a big part of Gujarat was devastated and with the help of the government the region has been re-built in the years after.


After the weaving many different techniques for further 'embellishment' of the fabrics are available. The variety in embroidery work is huge as each 'tribe' traditionally has its own technique and preference for pattern.

Unique to this region are also the many many tailors you can find at every street corner, ready to take your measurements and tailor a handmade garment from your newly purchased fabric. And of course... besides textiles, there is a lot of FOOD - street food! 

We left Gujarat full of inspiration for new KARIGAR products. For sure in our upcoming collections we will treat you with some beautiful translations of Gujarat's traditional crafts. Stay tuned!

​Text and pictures: Jolijn Fiddelaers