Going Down the Silk Route

Recall Dusshera many years ago, when we made the annual garment shopping trip with our mothers to MG Marg. Our mothers would ensure that we buy whole sets of clothes to be used for many years to come. Quality and good workmanship were essential. Getting our night suits stitched from a good tailor was essential.  Fashion was slow and timeless. But our wardrobes are not the same anymore. It certainly handles a larger amount of garment traffic than many years ago. We have now entered futuristic times when retailers are able to manufacture and place a product in their shelf within just a week as opposed to the conventional six months period. Additionally, as consumers we happily embrace the convenience of shopping from our bedrooms and receiving the products at our doorstep. If we ever decide to trace the life history of the freshly delivered trendy flower-pattern shirt, prepare yourselves to see the darker side of the world (on the bright side, we might all be up for a world tour!) Fast Fashion, as we now call it, is designed to pollute, cause injustice to workers around the world and create an illusion of good workmanship.

Alternatively, the slow fashion movement aims to go back to the times when fashion was less polluting, ethical and sustainable. Unfortunately we are not in for a world tour anymore because the need of the hour calls for a journey to town of Chittapur and the forests of Assam in Northeast India where the stories of the silkworm and local communities are waiting to unfold. 7weaves is an enterprise based out of Guwahati, Assam that works with the forest dependent families (FDF) in the sustainable production of textile made out of locally found natural materials and further in creating linkages to the ethical fashion market labels such as Jyoti Fairworks. In other words, 7Weaves,  Jyoti Fairworks along with the families they work with and the the ethical consumers of their products are an emerging slow fashion community engaged in the sustainable production and consumption of fashion. To understand this, let us trace the life of Sumati the scarf. Launched into the market in its Autumn 2018 collection by an Indo-German based fair fashion label Jyoti Fairworks, Sumati brings promising stories from different parts of India.

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photo: Jyoti Fairworks

So it is a world tour after all because Sumati travels all the way to Berlin, Germany to finally meet her slow fashion friend. Sumati is sewn by seamstresses brought together by Jyoti Fairworks in Chittapur, Karnataka. There are positive stories that unfold in Chittapur where the seamstresses in general use traditional techniques to hand-craft the scarf and other products. A boon to Chittapur, Jyoti Fairworks ensures permanent employment, health checks, regular training opportunities and a fair salary for all employed at the workshop. From Karnataka, we travel to Guwahati, Assam where Sumati is born at the hands of a forest, silkworms and the families that live in it. 7Weaves brings together the FDFs of Loharghat and Ranikhamar forests to prepare the fabric that Sumati is sewn with. The women of the community are involved in the harvesting of Eri Silk cocoons from the habitats of the silkworm in Ranikhamar forest. Eri silk, also popularly known as Peace silk or Ahimsa silk, is noteworthy for its ethical and zero waste extraction process. The cocoon that the moth leaves behind as waste has become exemplary in the ethical fashion world.  Therefore no harm is done to the moth and its habitat in the process of extraction. While at the same time, another set of women from the community prepares natural dye out of turmeric found in the wild. The women then employ traditional techniques to spin yarn and weave the celebrated Eri silk fabric. The fabric is then supplied to Chittapur where Sumati becomes a beautiful yellow scarf. When we talk #slowfashion, we talk about ethical, eco friendly and lasting fashion. 7Weaves and Jyoti Fairworks are stories where such practice is endorsed.

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photo: 7Weaves

At Tapestree too, we want to slow down. In our upcoming collaboration with 7Weaves, we will be taking you on a journey to the forests of Assam where communities coexist in harmony with the forest. We want to celebrate the stories that emerge out of your wardrobe in the form of colors, fabric, designs and the people involved in making the garment. Every fabric has stories to tell. The relationship that the people share with the forest is deep and goes back to many decades. The Eri silk products will be a symbol of that harmony. Our priority is to connect ethical consumers to the forest dependent families of Assam. Slow and ethical fashion is also about being transparent to consumers about processes, pricing, resources and human stories. Our aim is to slow down.

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photo: 7Weaves

 

Post contributed by Animesh Gautam

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