Indigo: The Promise of More Alchemy (exhibition)
Intersections Conference, Loughborough University, London Campus, 13 to 14 September 2017
It is not news that craft is making a comeback, that the love of the handmade is replacing the consumption of sterile branded goods as the luxury of tomorrow. Fashion has not previously been associated with craft. Not in the manner that ceramics, jewellery or woodcarving is at least. Fashion is associated with mass manufacturing, speed of production and high profit margins. Craft is synonymous with the slow, the laborious, and the unprofitable. How can crafted fashion goods possibly be the future? This exhibition sought to answer that question. It presented the outcomes of a trans-national craft collaboration between England and India: a British designer working with skilled rural artisans in Gujarat to develop a range of contemporary womenswear garments made from indigenous Kala Cotton.
Indigo investigated the fashion design potential of new fabrics made from ‘old world’ organic Kala Cotton (Gossipium Herbaceum) grown in Kachchh, in the state of Gujarat in Northern India.
This rain-fed cotton is being promoted through a partnership between two non-governmental organisations, one with a focus on the crafts and the other with links to the farming communities. Unlike most of the cotton grown in India today, which is hybridized with other plants or genetically modified, Kala Cotton is indigenous and genetically pure.
Welsh worked alongside an award-winning Indian master weaver Shamji Vishram to develop designs for organically dyed fabrics, based on the heritage of the traditional weaving motifs of his community. These designs were hand woven on ‘pit looms’ in the village of Bhujodi, which is home to around 200 weavers. This new Indigo range also included garments printed and resist dyed with the natural dyes produced by specialist Khatri craftsmen from the ajrakh block-printing and tie-dying communities of Kachchh.
Indigo aimed to showcase the indigenous crafts of Gujarat, and to deliver positive social and economic impact to the rural artisans of Kachcch, through the creation of sustainable products, and the promotion of Kala Cotton to the international design community.
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