Care culture is an emerging trend in fashion. Ongoing uncertainty in the globe and our increased climate anxiety has left us with the need to care for and connect with our clothing. Craft is imbued with care for cultures and customs and is a way to weave these connections into fashion.
We celebrated #WorldCraftDay very recently, a day dedicated to celebrating the variety of crafts and appreciating artisans who hold traditional craft knowledge. And as we learn to care again for ourselves, our belongings, cultures and customs, perhaps artisans and craftspeople can show us the way forward.
#Craftcore has been used to describe the renaissance of craft in fashion – with knitwear, fisherman cables, vintage quilts, natural weaves, and layering taking center stage. A recent trend forecast by WGSN highlights the themes of care, community, and a celebration of local craft for knitwear designs in A/W 24’ as brands emphasize craft in their design process. But, craft is not trend-like. It’s long-lasting and rooted in traditional knowledge that is central to culture and it’s at risk of being lost..
The global fashion supply chain has become fractured and so has craft production. Rich craft knowledge that extends across India has become fragmented – preventing meaningful textile techniques from being passed to future generations.
This is true for the Lambadi tribals in South India who hold a rich tradition of hand embroidery, incorporated into the traditional dress for generations. Due to colonial influence and the effects of mass production on the value of traditional textile production methods, techniques were lost for two generations.
Luckily, a resurgence in care culture has meant a revival of craft. We are seeing brands such as Story mfg, 100% Silk, and Osei-Duro focus on slow hand-made textile production through collaborations with communities that possess traditional craft knowledge. In this way, craft becomes a form of cultural connection, preservation, and protection.
Linebecomesriver is an Indian-produced and Danish-based clothing brand by designer Pia, who believes, “craft can be a tool for systemic change on a societal and environmental level”. Her brand works with organizations such as Porgai, Creative Bee, and Khamir Cotton that employ artisans with different specialities and communities to mend fragmented textile communities.
“Craft can be a tool for systemic change on a societal and environmental level”,
- Pia from LinebecomesRiver.
Porgai is a Women’s Social Enterprise that helped revive the intricate embroidery technique of the Lambadi tribals in South India. Through craft, Porgai provides fair wages to 60 women and in turn, keeps families together by reducing migration to neighboring cities in search of work. Passing on craft techniques to the next generation provides security to women who wouldn't otherwise have it in a patriarchal society.
In partnership with Khamir Cotton, Pia honors the Jamani weave in her designs, a traditional woven handloom technique and redevelops weaving communities. A number of community members – weavers, spinners, dyers, loom-dressers, and supporting craft practitioners – are involved in the production process. Forming a network of fair trade, reviving and preserving craft to reconnect the community.
Due to its rich motifs and discontinuous weft technique, Jamandi is a time-consuming form of weaving – a method that differs from quick production timelines and reproducible motifs that come along with mass production.
Craft is an intricate weave of people and places, linked by time and tradition to land, language, and culture. Unlike fast fashion which is reproducible and automated, craft practices take time because they draw on knowledge from rich oral storytelling.
Pia works alongside Creative Bee, a farm on a mission to preserve India’s handloom sector. Located in the town of Ghatkesar in Telangana, India, artisans specialize in hand-weaving and natural dyeing techniques such as Batik, Shibori, and Ikat. Artisans oversee all steps in the process from farming to designing while preserving nature in the process.
The farm has found a slow, caring approach to fashion through use of circular systems. Natural plant dyes are used as opposed to naphthalene dyes used in fashion which can be harmful for human and environmental health. Leftover water used in dyeing becomes a resource to water the plants on the farm, even the soapy water is alkaline and therefore safe for plants.
Fair trade is implemented through balanced work schedules, off at 5pm and providing education for children, with some staff living on site. Care is given to the wellbeing of artisans, to the craft, and to the environment.
Similarly, Story mfg, a UK-based brand working with artisans in India to bring traditional crafts such as natural dyeing and embroidery to a younger audience interested in well-made garments with a story. On their blog, they explain that in the time it takes one of their partners in Thailand to weave enough fabric for a jacket, a factory could make enough for 10,000 without involving human labor.
Why take more time if it costs more? Slowing down the production process weaves care into a garment as it ensures it will be made consciously, for people and for the environment. Creative Bee and brands like Story mfg use low-impact natural dyes made by local artisans who know their land. In this way, the production of textiles and the environment are integrated.
Osei-Duro, based in the U.S, Canada, and Ghana works with small-scale artisan production to produce their textiles. Working with small sewing facilities, sewers are paid by the piece at rates they negotiate.
Textile gallery and shop in Downtown Toronto 100% Silk, showcases the thoughtful construction and slow, handmade processes of brands such as Osei-Duro. Traditional techniques such as Kente weaving and Haitian beadwork so they maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with artisans and designers. Brands like Story mfg, Osei-Duro, and 100% Silk show us that there’s a market for prices that reflect the craft's time and cultural history.
100% Silk store in Downtown Toronto
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM CRAFT
Craft tells a story; a story woven together by time, culture, people, and place. If brands from the west hope to work with artisans in countries such as India and Ghana, their brands should reflect this story in all facets of their business from design, communications, and operations.
Producers should practice reciprocity. Respectful collaboration with local organizations and artisans that work within craft communities can help ensure economic stability for communities.
We are at a breaking point, we must care for and value materials. When you care for textiles, you care for the artisans behind the craft and the surrounding environment. Embracing craft increases our connection to the textiles we interact with and the meaning we attach to them.
Until next time friends, always be curious and stay diligent.