We now source our cottons exclusively from organisations that work with handloom fabrics. This is a traditional craft in India, threatened since the industrial revolution by mechanisation and factory-based production (restoring hand-spun and hand-loom cottons was a goal of Gandhi’s, because of what it meant for local employment). Today there is a rich supply of lovely cotton woven on handlooms, and sold through weavers’ cooperatives or NGOs supporting their work.
These fabrics are beautiful, with all the interest that comes with hand-made products; variable fibres and slubs where threads are joined. Lovely textures and colour combinations provide plenty of choice for the designer, and we love the fact that you can see these fabrics are hand-made. Where possible we choose fabrics that have been produced with natural dyes. Unlike the big mills, who require orders of 1,000m and are therefore out of the reach of limited production labels like ours, the handloom organisations weave small meterages for us. This adds 2-3 months to our production cycle, but we feel the fabrics are worth the wait.
Our first goal was to support the work of these weavers and, having established that in our fabric sourcing, we are now moving on to add as much organic cotton as possible. The impact on farmers of ‘modern’ cotton production techniques, dependent on the use of expensive seed and fertilisers, is brought to our notice from time to time when the media takes note of the high suicide rates amongst Indian cotton farmers and their families.
So organic cotton is an important industry to support, for both environmental and social reasons. Until recently Indian organic cotton has been difficult to source for those of us wanting to support the weavers: it has been too expensive for them to access and we have made the weavers our priority. However, things are changing and by 2012 we hope to be able to declare that all our cottons are both hand-loomed and organically produced.
For more information on our cotton suppliers, visit their websites:
Organic, hand-loomed silk, using fibre from silkworms native to India, is now more and more available. Watch this space as we develop an evening wear collection based around these beautiful fabrics.