I'm very fortunate to work with incredible artisinal fabric supplier Anuprerna, who supply all of our handwoven cotton fabrics, known as 'khadi'.
Khadi is an incredibly meticulous traditional craft & is the fabric choice you will find most commonly used across the SOFO studio collection. I'm very much in awe of the skill and dedication this artisanal art form takes.
I felt the best way to share an insight into how this fabric is produced would be to share a conversation with Anuprerna's founder Amit.
What’s the story/history behind Anuprerna? The business was pioneered and driven by my father in 1983, inspired by the artisans’ community around, started out of a small village in Burdwan district of West Bengal, India. I’ve grown up seeing and speaking to weavers who used to be regular visitors at our place. My father has been working closely with the weavers’ community and connecting the crafts to primarily domestic consumers through small retail stores across India. Post my education as a computer engineer & an MBA graduate, with work experience of 3+ years in the field of finance & strategy, I decided to spearhead Anuprerna to create a sustainable and eco-friendly global brand to uplift India’s indigenous textile by leveraging various industries like IT, E-commerce, art, music and more.
How many artisanal weavers do you have working at Anuprerna?
At present, we work with close to 200-300 artisans from multiple clusters across West Bengal. Different clusters are equipped with different weaving expertise needed for an array of handmade textiles. Usually it’s a family oriented homeworker economy where the men are responsible for weaving and the women usually involve in pre-weaving activity. There are few expert women weavers too, skilled in techniques like Jamdani. As a community, they are happy inhabitants living in complete harmony. The Eastern part of India, especially Bengal have multiple festivals happening throughout the year and the artisans would enjoy each festival with family and friends. In their community, the people are usually identified by their profession. Weaving wages are fair and sufficient for them to live a happy healthy life, but one thing they always look for is continuous year long work; most of them are paid on a contract weaving basis.
Can you kindly explain the processes involved in making khadi? Khadi is a hand-woven natural fibre cloth originating from eastern regions of the Indian subcontinent, mainly eastern India, northeastern India and Bangladesh, but are now broadly used in Pakistan and throughout India. At our studio, the dyeing units are using Organic certified dyes and eco-friendly chemicals.
Khadi production generally follows these processes:
Growing the cotton plant, hand picking the cotton seed, separation of fibres from cotton seed - known as ginning. Cotton slivers are then spun into yarns. If dyed, the yarns are dyed using organic Azo free dyes or natural dyes. The loom is set up for weaving according to the desired design; warp yarns (the yarns that go length of the fabric) are thread through the heddle, Weft yarns (the yarns that go across the width of the fabric) are wound and inserted to a shuttle. The fabric is then handwoven as the shuttle is pushed by hand between the warp yarns. It usually takes around 3 weeks to prepare the yarn and set up the loom, dyeing takes an additional week. Then, depending on the count of khadi, a weaver can weave around 6 meters per day, or 1-2 metres if a much finer weave. Finally, processing & finishing takes a further week.
What makes khadi sustainable? Due to the nature of the process fully handspun and produced on a handloom, it's environment friendly as there's no electricity involved, as well as this it provides employment to weaving communities.
Which sustainability efforts and ethical practices are you particularly proud to carry out at Anuprerna? We have centralised the sourcing of raw material & processing so that we can have a control on quality sustainability of the material used. We have set up an in-house dyeing facility for both natural and certified Azo free organic dyes. We only outsource the weaving to artisans across East India, creating employment in the process.
Do you face any challenges in trying to be more sustainable? Do you have any particular goals you’re working towards with regards to sustainability/ethical standards? Due to the nature of our decentralised weaving, it's difficult and expensive to be certified. But we are on our way to do that as well. We are working with the NGO Nest who are the best in the world to support and understand such decentralised artisan based communities. We're working towards being certified by their ethical handicraft program -which is the best way to ensure artisans are supported. Regarding sourcing raw materials, we are working on sourcing Organic Khadi fibres, but certified fibres are only provided by big organisations in bulk. We are slowly working towards our sourcing as well. We are already enrolled for Handloom certification under The Textiles Committee India.
Is there anything we at SOFO studio can do to support Anuprerna artisans' work further?
One of our visions is to create a global recognition for these beautiful textiles to bestow value onto ordinary lives of these artisans with extraordinary skills. We believe, once the value is recognised globally, it should translate into higher wages for weavers. We would seek your help to share these traditions with more people you know, to spread more awareness.
Certainly! And finally, what are your hopes for the future of artisanal hand-weaving? We feel the pandemic has created more awareness across conscious consumers, growing attention by the younger generations towards sustainability, circular economy and thereby growth of slow fashion brands who relies on small scale production encompassing social responsibility only possible via handwoven ecosystem and that's what we are trying to focus on.
You can learn more about Anuprerna here.
Images courtesy of Amit Singha.