INDIA HAS ALWAYS BEEN A FASCINATION
Apparel|November 2021
Brinda Gill talks to Caroline Poiner, founder of the social enterprise Artisans of Fashion (AOF) and business enterprise Cloth & Co, based in Sydney, Australia, shares her thoughts on collaborating with textile artisans in India to create collections for the global market
Brinda Gill

WHAT DREW YOU TO THE TEXTILE AND FASHION INDUSTRY?

I grew up in the textile/fashion industry in Australia so textiles have always been a big part of my life. The business was a third generation textile import business, mainly importing from Britain and Europe until my father inherited the business. He started to import from other parts of the world including India. Many years and many stories later, I decided to discover India and her textile treasures for myself.

WHAT IS YOUR IMPRESSION OF INDIAN TEXTILES?

India has always been a fascination, ever since I can remember. With such a rich and diverse culture, my travels throughout India only enhanced my passion for textiles and interest in the artisanal techniques. There is a strong connection with India and the Australian fashion industry, but this was mainly through export houses. This relationship was something I was keen to explore: how I could connect the designer and the artisan to cocreate, open a designer's eyes to this incredible world of handcrafted textiles. To me, it was an opportunity for designers and craftspeople to gain an understanding of each other’s skills and create something truly authentic.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO ESTABLISH ARTISANS OF FASHION (AOF)?

Artisans of Fashion (https://www. artisansoffashion.com) started as a passion project in 2012. I decided to immerse myself in India; traveling into villages and communities tounderstand the culture, the traditions and the techniques. It was through this understanding that I saw the opportunity for designers and artisans to share their knowledge and skills as expert collaborators in the process and to bring the two worlds together. I wanted to share this experience with designers to help them gain a better understanding in how to work with artisans as equal partners and to create something with meaningful.

Two years later, I founded Cloth & Co. (https:// clothandco.co/ ) with my daughter Daisy, who is equally passionate about India. Cloth & Co. was founded as a commercial venture with a very specific purpose: one where we could create a successful business producing high quality apparel that had sustainability, women empowerment and social and environmental impact at the core.

WHAT IS THE AIM OF AOF?

AOF was founded as a platform to bridge the gap between Western designers and India’s textile artisans; educating as well as encouraging authentic, collaborative partnerships underpinned by dignity and mutual respect. The aim is to preserve the traditional knowledge and craft skills behind the exquisite textiles whilst harmonising this with contemporary design aesthetics. It is without a doubt that many of these craft techniques and the traditional knowledge can convey sustainability practices in fashion, bringing a new perspective to the textiles and crafts of India.

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO WORK WITH ARTISANS IN INDIA?

During my early travels some 20 years ago, I fell in love with India, the people, ancient traditions, art and culture and the richness and diversity of the textiles. There was also the concern that for many of the techniques, without making them relevant, they were at the risk of being completely lost. India is renowned for the multitude of craft practices that are traditionally rooted in a sustainable approach with natural fibres and regenerative practices, providing a sound argument for exploring the possibilities as part of a designer or brand's sustainability agenda. I knew from that first trip that I wanted to make this my life’s work and somehow I would make that happen.

WHICH ARTISAN COMMUNITIES AND/ OR TExTILE TECHNIqUES HAVE YOU BEEN COLLABORATING WITH?

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