What are the first things that come to your mind, when thinking of India? Is it the classic tourist locations like Taj Mahal, or spicy food and great beaches in Goa? Well, I can tell you that aside from this very cliché and touristic approach, India is pretty much the most mind-blowing place on earth and a real powerhouse in textiles.
Did you know that India is the world’s second-largest textile producer (after China) and right on track to basically outgrow China? Just in the spinning sector alone produces and exports around about 20% of the world’s cotton yarns.
So, this basically means that literally all of us have several garments and items at home, that in some way origins from India. If you think this further, you understand how crucial and embedded Indian textile skills and manufacturing hubs are for global fashion supply chains.
These skills and the tradition of working with fabrics and garments are not a new thing. Historically speaking, it is easy to see a long line of artisan and cloth traditions in most of the countries from where we now get the supplier for cheap and disposable fast fashion items. What once was fine art, got so often blown out of proportion in production volume and lowered in quality.
Looking at India, you can find a million and one regions which are specialized in a particular thing. One of them is Rajasthan and their most valuable handcraft is block printing. Block printing is an ancient craft mostly done on cotton fabrics, traditionally with natural colors.
All around Jaipur, which is the Rajasthani capital and an important textile location, you can still find small and rural villages, where families and groups of artisans live and work with the block printing craft. Bagru might be one of the most famous villages, well known for its scenic pictures of fabrics hanging outside during dry seasons.
The village, the communities, and the families of Bagru (and so many other artisan villages) naturally face the common struggles of urbanization and globalization in a way. While block printers try to keep the craft alive, the threat of market pressure, income struggles, and climate change are real. Additionally, to all of this India is now going through the worst wave of COVID-19 that has happened globally. I am not giving you the details on that, because I am pretty sure you came across the news already, but as someone regularly working with Indian clients and friends I can tell you: it’s scary.
My personal opinion is, that with every bad or challenging situation can come something good. People come up with ideas to support each other and strengthen communities. So does Studio Bagru. The initiative is located in Rajasthani village and focuses on ethical and conscious block printed fabrics. Their entire ethics and approach is to not only value and protects the artisan craft of block printing, but also translate it into a contemporary approach and offer new revenue streams for their workers. If you want to learn more and get a glimpse of how block printing works, you should definitely check out their PRINT FOR PURPOSE event on May 29th, 2021. It’s a live virtual printing workshop where you can learn how to print on fabric! All proceeds of this fun session will go to a COVID-19 relief found in Bagru, so you are not only learning a new skill, but you are also supporting Indian crafts and villages.