Day 156 / 365

There’s something romantic about artisan skills of the past, of someone lovingly weaving fabric they’ve chosen into something of their own creative expression and design from fabrics previously doomed to join the ever growing landfills which plague their land.

It is this type of conscious and careful production which makes available the wearable art our mothers and grandparents once wore, made to last multiple lifetimes rather than a single season. It is a skill the fast fashion industry has done their best to lay to rest as like any art piece, these creations take 15 to 30 three-hour work days to complete and are gestated into fruition in the safety and convenience of the artisans home rather than the workforce of dodgy factories nearby. 

For point of comparison, in factories for H&M, Topshop, Zara, Forever 21 and other such gluttonous giants, production time is reduced to less than 5-15 minutes per garment, in a 12-hour work day, under stressful and unsafe conditions in which output very much dictates ones already lower than a living wage.

The time intensive but preservable artisan skill described is Kantha, a unique and spectacular embroidery technique native to West Bengal, India. As part of an NGO cooperative of 1,400 artisans who specialise in this skill, numerous stunning products are produced for The House of Wandering Silk and other conscious collectors. Each one is made using vintage sari fabric layered and stitched together in the style of Kantha, hand sewn into rows of tiny running stitches which provide strength and enable the recycling of the saris. It creates a rich, rippling effect across the fabric and adds a unique and rich texture no cheap high street knock off could ever recreate.

This is one of many artisan skills which are supported and gathered by the The House of Wandering Silk from the hundreds of women worldwide, who were taught traditional skills of their area by their mothers, who in turn were taught by their mothers, and will pass these skills down to their daughters with hopes this new path to viable income will continue to provide opportunity to grow and flourish.

In a society where women are very restricted - culturally as well as economically - work like this is scarce for women who are consistently paid lower wages than men or the same work. The independence and confidence the women gain from earning their own income has ramifications much greater than the immediate economic benefits.

You can encourage and support the growth and continuation of this heritage skill by voting with your dollar and supporting these women through product sales should the style and story move you. This conscious collector of ecological and ethically produced artisan creations has numerous stunning products made by other artisan’s with skills native to other lands. Skills I plan to discover and cover over the remainder of this gone green series (and beyond).  

You’ll find Shane’s Kantha Tie pictured (which we got for his brother’s wedding) HERE |  My reversible Kantha Shrug (which has happily cemented itself into my capsule-esque wardrobe) HERE | And my beautiful Kantha stitched scarf HERE | The entire collection of Kantha products HERE.