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Weaving a regenerative textiles enterprise
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I'm reading
Weaving a regenerative textiles enterprise
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Weaving a regenerative textiles enterprise
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Articles
17 September 2021

Weaving a regenerative textiles enterprise

We learn the story behind social enterprise, Fabric of Humanity.

Written by Kathy Williams

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

Discussed in this Story

The warm embrace of my grandmother’s home evokes my earliest textile memory. Exploring her linen press, the drawers of her old Singer sewing machine where everything I found, touched and smelt was exotic and textural in my little hands. We sat together and talked, she taught me to hand stitch. I was seven and she was amazing. Only now in hindsight do I realise the deep intuition she was nurturing.

The further I followed the thread the deeper my journey became. For 25 years I bred silkworms observing them eat, spin, hatch and continue their life cycle, while I experimented with all facets of handcrafted textiles. Later, the production of natural dyes would orchestrate my life. Planting in my garden for works that I will create in the future. My studio is full of dried flowers, vats of concoctions and swatches of colour created from nature. The aromas and colour hold stories for us to learn – the wisdom of old ways that can lead us towards a sustainable future.

My affinity with silk fulfilled my textile growth and fascination for many years until a friend asked me if I’d heard of Khadi. Khadi is hand-spun, hand-loomed, natural fibre that underpins the famous textile history and traditions of India. Holding my first piece of Khadi was the proverbial hallelujah moment for me. Handcrafted textiles are a story of time and experience. Looking and feeling closely enough, one hears the gentle whispers from hands working in rhythm. Interpreting thoughts and emotions that have been spun, woven, embroidered or knitted into fibres from plants and animals from lands near and far. The endless beauty of Khadi is amplified by its regenerative nature – cotton sourced from small-scale farms carrying out traditional farming practices, executing fair wages & healthy working conditions for all. Khadi comes from the earth and returns to the earth and is truly a natural cloth that stands the test of time.

It was Praveen Chauhan, whose life mission is to revive traditional textile skills in Bihar and who had been supplying me with Bihar khadi, that led me to Mumbai at Lakme Fashion Week Sustainable where I stunned at my sustainable fashion on the catwalk. Eight months following this, I returned to Bodhgaya, Bihar to work with Praveen and the rural village women teaching my natural dye skills. Up until Covid times I would travel to Bihar twice a year. A fine example of a full circular economy, it takes a village to make Khadi. The women traditionally spin and our work offers them additional opportunities by teaching them natural dyeing with the aspects of quality control expected internationally and in turn providing empowerment through sustainable employment.

Our intention has always been to create a complete off grid, zero waste weaving cluster containing first world conditions for spinners, weavers, dyers, embroiders and the extensive support team required to facilitate this infrastructure. A living, breathing example of truly environmentally aware textile production and practice. This space will be a community welcoming designers and students from around the world to commune with spinners and weavers. It will be a place to learn, understand and respect the effort and skill that is required to work harmoniously with nature to create genuine handcrafted textiles that return to earth leaving no trace. An immersive experience is by far the most inspiring if we are to sustain change in the textile/fashion industry.

I have always known there to be an alternative to fast fashion, an environmentally aware textile production with the added benefit of creating a full circular economy within a marginalised community.

Fabric of Humanity is the present stage of a long journey. A social enterprise established to support development on the ground in rural India with the village artisan community. A vision to establish a zero waste, off grid weaving cluster providing skill training, sustainable employment in a secure, safe and respectful environment. A portal for women’s empowerment for many women taking their first brave steps from within the home environment.

Now is the time for a textile revolution, a time for consumers to seek understanding and education surrounding supply chains. Investing in quality and the story behind clothing and textiles needs to be considered the new normal. Once clothing and textiles are considered an investment this ignites respect in the care of a garment – to re-use, re-dye and re-purpose. Designers need to meet consumer demand with responsible transparent sourcing of natural fibres, consider natural dyes, when designing collections envisage the collections end of life and design with bio degradation as a standard feature, a requirement of our planet.

Having the fortitude to believe is a wonderful thing.

 

Written by Kathy Williams representing the team at Fabric of Humanity. Praveen Chauhan, Renee Smith and Tom Hay.

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