At Daughters of India, we are lovers for embracing the slow ~ embracing the slow way of living and embracing slow, sustainable methods of textile production.
When we heard of a small village in Southern India struggling to uphold their generation-passed tradition of handloom weaving fabric, we decided to curate a range of garments made out of hand-loomed cotton to support the continuance of this beautiful artistry in their village.
So, what is handloom weaving and why is it important for villages such as Manamedu?
Handloom weaving is an ancient method of textile production. Archeologists have found evidence of weaving dating back 10,000 years, while the earliest known evidence of a handloom is around 6,000 years ago. Before the industrial revolution, almost all textiles were produced by hand using traditional handlooms!
Since the invention of electrical powered looms, the speed and efficiency of producing textiles at a lower cost alongside the rising demand for fast and inexpensive fabrics, has had a significant impact on traditional handloom weavers. In the village of Manamedu, the people live in exclusion from the mainstream and electricity is sparse, traditional handloom weaving remains one of their main sources of income.
As with many cultural traditions, the knowledge and skills required to operate a traditional handloom is passed down from generation to generation. Due to widespread unemployment in the weaving industry, younger generations have been seeking experience in other trades, often only available far from their homes and familial livelihoods. As a result, handloom weaving has an expected lifespan of 10-15 years in Manamedu.
Abstaining from ranges and collections has been a slow fashion practice we have proudly implemented since our conception. However, we wanted our order of fabric to supply enough work for the entire village, to encourage an accessible future of handloom weaving for the younger generations to continue their family traditions.
We placed a production order for three different fabrics and decided to curate a handloom series. The order was distributed throughout the entire village with roughly 100 handlooms in 100 homes working on piecing the fabric together through the various and slow methods of handloom production.
Handloom weaving is a slow and mindful artform. To set up a single handloom takes up to 15 days. Having witnessed a traditional handloom operating in real life was certainly a blessing. The mechanics of this apparatus are unfathomable. The outcome of even weaved fabric was like magic happening before our eyes, and this was the final phase of production! To simply prepare the cotton to be placed on the loom is an entire procedure within itself. There was an instinctual feeling upon witnessing, that such a multitude of skill and technique requires a lifetime of training and knowledge that could only be passed down through generations.
The entire production of the fabrics took around 140 days to complete, even so, this is a tremendously quick time-frame for such an order! Some of the artisans who worked on these fabrics have been operating traditional handlooms for over 40 years.
Produced by hand without the use of electricity, the production was entirely sustainable. The weavers worked only in daylight hours at the pace of their choosing. As is the production process for all artisans working on Daughters of India garments.
Three rare and exquisite hand-loomed cotton fabrics were created. These fabrics are the only of their kind in existence! Inspired by a vintage silhouette, the fabrics were crafted through high-end tailoring into three simple designs that reflect our aesthetic for timeless, feminine style.
The purpose of slow fashion is to produce garments that are made in honour of our planet, and serve to support the people who make them. Slow fashion is a testament to the value of traditional craftsmanship and the importance of preserving them for future generations.
The slow creation of these fabrics, produced through the rare and ancient art of handloom weaving, echo their own uniquely woven love story. A symbol for you to continue to weave your own tale of artistic expression ~ The Poet Series.
Available exclusively via our online and local boutiques April 2023.
(Words by Ella Josephine Archer)