Preserving Traditional Textile Processes

Words: Hattie Eavis
Feature Image: Mel Poole 

The way we shop has changed greatly in recent years; we buy fast and cheap, prioritising quantity over quality, often resulting in many of us living beyond our means. Our grandparents generation would have bought clothes according to their income and the season; investing in winter coat that was made to last for a lifetime and would be darned and repaired when worn through. Nowadays, the average consumer buys 4.1 items of clothing each month. 1.72 million tonnes of brand new fashion being consumed on an annual basis in the UK, and almost the same quantity of fashion that we buy is ending up prematurely in the bin.

The reduced quality of the fabric has resulted in the worth being of so little to us that the thought of repairing our clothes does not seem worth it. The speed and ease of which we can go out and buy something new to wear today, simply on our lunch break, and at a price that has been whittled down to cost no more than a sandwich has become the norm. In our current climate, fast fashion has become totally disposable and lack of quality makes for an ever shortening life span. An overly saturated market means that many garments destined for our high streets never even make it to the shop floor, and all the resources used in making these textiles become redundant.

However, although it is clear we are buying more than ever before, we have become more insecure in the way we shop, and less and less engaged with the clothing we are buying, and as a result less satisfied in our purchases.

Many small scale textile industries have struggled to compete with the enormity of the fast fashion industry, resulting in a great many age-old textile techniques and craftsmanship becoming lost. In order to preserve these traditional textile processes there must be a certain level of work to be done in re-connecting the consumer with the people behind the clothes we buy.

India based company Injiri designs handwoven clothing and homeware, focusing on showcasing Indian textiles. A country where traditional textile expertise and techniques is deep rooted in its past. Injiri works to highlight these highly skilled individuals, harnessing the talent of makers across India; from hand dying the yarn, to the bunkers (weavers), and finishing each piece by hand.

The workmanship that goes into hand dying, and hand weaving a length of material, from making the warp and putting in each weft thread by hand allows for an obvious degree of irregularity, but creates an individuality to each piece that brings a real authenticity whereby the process is left to tell a story. A sense of connection between the maker and the consumer somehow makes an item of clothing seem all the more beautiful for the history it holds.

Specialist Scottish knitwear factories, producing some of the highest quality cashmere in the world, have a real understanding of the natural fibres they are working with and makers take care to finish each piece is by hand and to the highest standard. Scottish Fair Isle knitwear, traditional worn by fisherman is made up of intricate and diverse patterns. Traditionally hand knitted by the women of the fishing communities where each region would have their own unique pattern which would be used to differentiate where fisherman came from. Today the same heritage knitwear factories can still be found in the Shetlands today.

Through updated methods and contemporary designs which is interwoven into the threads of tradition, the industry is able to maintain its 21st century relevance. In turn supporting and showcasing the talent of the makers.