Can you tell I got paid for the first time in a while?
Anyway, I decided to put my money where my mouth is, head down to my local beloved book store @booklounge to make a purchase which I aim to hold onto and grow old alongside.
Africa Rising is a term which was coined at the turn of the century to mark a period of rapid economic growth in sub-saharan Africa which has since become a bit of a catch phrase, lending itself beautifully to many contexts, especially the contemporary pop culture movement of afro-futurism. This collective cultural movement is both extremely exciting for the reinvisioning of what an African aesthetic is and where it's place within a global modernity is, as well as being incredibly important psychologically for artisans and designers who have been bound by outdated notions which relegate them to the historical and tribal in the global imagination.
The book was published in 2016 by @gestalten and was co-edited alongside @designindaba, a multifaceted South African platform for creativity.
The book showcases and celebrates the rise of contemporary African design and creativity through a survey of creative practitioners on the continent across a variety of cultural fields.
Although much of the practice included is founded deeply within tradition, it presents a narrative which challenges stereotypes and cliches of 'Africaness' that are often based on the historical, traditional and rural by presenting a new notion of African aesthetics to the world, one which has long been intrinsically understood within the continent.
I'm very excited to get stuck in, to revisit and continue to return to it for reference for many years to come.
Taglined "Fashion, design and lifestyle from Africa" be assured that it is jampacked with grogeous cloth from across the continent which I will be sharing as I go along...
So, for those of you who don't know: My day job is sourcing and styling of decor, props and any other art department related necessities for film projects. Predominantly this takes the form of television commercials for European brands although sometimes I'm lucky enough to get involved in some fun local and African market shoots as well as the odd short film, documentary or feature film.
As trying as the industry often is, I really love my job with regards to the actual sourcing of decor and other visual elements and then using them through styling to transform a space for a specific aesthetic or narrative. On the other hand, I really struggle with my role in what I feel is my contribution to the propagation of mindless consumption, an aspect which is in direct conflict with my personal ethics and values.
This season, I'm really making an effort to use as many locally, ethically made products as I can possible squeeze passed the oft fickle clients and am amazed by the wealth and breadth of locally crafted products currently available.
Another tough part of my job is not spending all my own personal money while sourcing. Today I could not resist this charming (and highly necessary, I promise!) spectacle sleeve by Spaza Store, a Cape Town company doing all the good things.
Founded from a culture of thriftiness, they promote a low waste lifestyle, environmental kindness and are actively involved in community upliftment through the manufacture of their cotton based products which present alternatives to single use and other highly disposable household items.
You can find them at the V&A Watershed, online at www.spazastore.com or here @spazastore
On a side note, I'm looking to get more involved in styling and sourcing in a more meaningful and localised way, so please get in touch if you know of any exciting projects or would like to collaborate.
Ps. Venus just happens to live on my desk, don't read too much into it 😉
6 558:06 PM Jan 12, 2019
Maheshwar is a small and exceedingly beautiful town on the banks of the Narmada River in hot, central India. Here, handloom forms the lifeblood of the town and the chorus of clacking looms is the backing track to daily life. This ancient history can be traced back to the highly venerated Queen Ahilyabai Holkar, who brought skilled weavers from the most celebrated weaving communities to impart their skills and knowledge on her subjects and to weave for the patronage of the royals. Since their introduction in the 1700s, the legacy of the gossamer fine Maheshwari Sari continues well into present with it's recognition under the Geographical Index mark forming the basis of tourism in the region.
Following Independence, India saw a move from the system of princely states under royal rule to a secular form of governance and along with this many of the most skilled artisans lost their primary market of royal patronage. This too was the fate of Maheshwari weavers, until the 1970s when the young successors of the dynasty, Richard and Sally Holkar, were made aware of the plight of the weavers and instigated a revival in the form of the Rehwa Society, a non profit organisation aimed at providing training, promotion and marketing for the local artisans.
After the Rehwa Society, Sally went on to found WomenWeave, a charitable trust established to promote handloom as a fulfilling, sustainable and dignified livelihood for some of the most neglected members of the society.
This image belongs to WomenWeave and shows one of their women winding a bobbin on a charkha in preparation to load the warping wheel.
While I was in Maheshwar last year I was lucky enough to spend some of my time volunteering with WomenWeave and I grew an intimacy with some of the artisans as well as insight into the many activities which take place under their one roof. I put together a presentation which explains their full process from fibre to final product and you can find it in my latest post - link in bio.
Zenaida, mola textile artisan who accompanied us at the home of master mola-maker Lisa, to share about their Guna culture. In Guna language, the word “mola” just means clothing. It now specifically refers to the multi-layer embroidered rectangular bodice of Guna women’s blouses. The embroidery is done by layering cloth pieces on top of each other, and cutting designs into the upper fabrics to show the color of the fabrics below. You then fold the edges of the top fabrics under and seal them with a stitch that these artisans make look almost invisible. The work is so beautiful and required an impressive amount of talent!
Thank you to this community for educating our group of student travelers in your traditions and culture. #threadcaravanpanama
8 39010:09 PM Jan 3, 2019
Tell me, what are your textile focused aspirations for 2019? Let me hear them in the comments below, I’d love to know what ideas you’ve got up your sleeve and get inspired to try something new this year. My personal/professional / lifelong ambition to see accomplished by the end of 2019 is to travel to the San Blas islands on the coast of Panama to learn the Mola appliqué techniques of the indigenous Guna women. This is a heart filled life long bucket list dream of mine. What’s your top textile technique to learn or destination to visit in 2019? I’m sure everyone input would create a amazing source of inspiration for us all ❤️ the 📸 is from a mural I saw by a anonymous artist in Santa Marta Colombia last year.
16 3945:51 PM Jan 3, 2019
Lesotho is a small "Mountain Kingdom" landlocked by South Africa. It is a lesser known country which is know by a couple iconic images, the foremost of which is the Basotho Blanket.
Pictured here is a young man in the Seanamarena brand blanket produced by the Aranda Textile Mills who own sole rights to produce the Basotho blankets as approved by the royal family. This brand was founded in the 1930s and means 'to swear by the Cheifs'. It is the most sought after of the Basotho Blanket brands and typically features the corn cob motif which represents Lesotho's staple crop of maize and signifies wealth and fertility.
Traditionally the Basotho wore karosses of animal skins, until the mid 1800s when drought and rinderpest coincided with a colonial introduction of European produced blankets which were quickly adopted in the cold climes of Lesotho.
Although the blankets were introduced through a colonial legacy, they have become internalized as a nationally synonymous Basotho icon. However, they have never been produced locally and have an interesting history of international trade.
To find out more read my latest blog post at www.crosspolynations.com
6 684:26 PM Jan 2, 2019
What textile technique are you most prone to buying? Weaving, printing, natural dyes, embellishments, knitting? For me it’s embroidery! I would say at least half of the garments In my wardrobe have embroidery on them, I love the texture and layers embroidery gives. The Otomi embroidery in this photo is from Mexico. So tell me in the comments below which textile technique can you not 😍 resist?
Do you love traditional dress 💃🏻, A good party 🎺 and plenty of arts 🎭, crafts 🎨and textiles ✂️? Then why not join us on our Frida and Folk Art Tour of Mexico City from April 6th - 11th for five jammed pack days of museums, workshops, adventures, performances and shopping!? Only email subscribers can access the brochure and booking form via our mailing list (link in our bio) and get the early bird discount before the tour goes public on our website HauteCultureFashion.com on January 7th! Only 8 places available. Don’t miss out!
Good morning everybody! If you signed up to our Very Keen Participant List for this April’s new Frida and Folk Art Tour of Mexico City then please check your inbox 💌 now! The tour is now on sale and deposit can be made by clicking the link listed on the booking form. All other Haute Culture Textile Tour email subscribers will receive the brochure and booking form at 12pm GMT today. Can’t wait to see who’s going to be joining us! 👯♀️
15 170410:37 AM Dec 26, 2018
Feliz Navidad 🎄 fashion and textile lovers! Merry Christmas Eve 🎅🏽! If you registered for our Very Keen Participant List for our new Frida and Folk Art 🎨Tour of Mexico City this April then please check your inbox 💌. On sale to Haute Culture email subscribers Boxing Day! 📸 Nickolas Muray.
Who do you know who loves Mexico and the National Geographic ethos?
Join me and G Adventures Purpose Specialist @erinbuttler for an exciting evening IRL highlighting our Day of the Dead group trip in October 2019 and my 2019/20 favourite picks for Nat Geo and G Adventure co-curated small group journeys - all around the globe!
Come for the travel talk and stay for the mezcal tasting, Oaxacan savory treats, fun times and giveaways!
January 17th, 2019 at 6pm. Link in bio to my website with the eventbrite link!
I spent this passed weekend in Port Elizabeth, a small port based city which serves both as the capital of South Africa's Eastern Province as well as the Mohair capital of the world.
The semi-desert Karoo region of South Africa has a long tradition of high quality mohair production which traces back to one inconspicuously pregnant Angora ewe, sent as a gift along with twelve neutred males from the Sultan of Turkey in 1838. The Karoo is somewhat similar to the Ankara region where the mohair producing Angora goats originate from and they have thrived here over the centuries.
South Africa is now the world's largest producer of Mohair, exporting over 50% of the world's supply at a value of over $100 million annually.
This beautiful image was taken by photographer Joubert Loots as a part of a feature on Adele's Mohair, a Port Alfred based local handcrafted mohair company which does hand spinning, natural dyeing and handloom weaving. It pictures one of the local isiXhosa craftswomen in her traditional dress handling a hank of naturally dyed mohair wool.
To read more about the Mohair industry and South Africa's most lucrative luxury fibre check out the latest post on the website, link in bio
Follow Adele's Mohair @adeles_mohair and Joubert Loots @joubertlootsphotography
Lids off... and it's time for a shift.
This platform was started as a means to document my travels through India with textiles. That journey has come to an end, but the fire that it lit in my imagination is burning stronger than ever.
Reflecting on my experiences and interactions with artisans, suppliers, retailers, educators, facilitators and many more engaged in the production of handcraft textiles, one major theme rose out above the rest.
Despite the multitudinous odds, I have found that there are many artisans producing beautiful, high quality, handcrafted textiles which have a lower impact on the environment and provide a higher quality of life for the artisans than the quotidian textile market, while simultaneously empowering communities and contributing to rural development in a sustainable way.
On the other end, I have witnessed that there is a growing desire, particularly in the luxury market for goods which demand the same: a story behind the product, which nurtures a closer connection to both the natural environment and the makers.
In India this tradition is very strong, relatively visible and to an extent there are structures in place to support it.
Returning to Africa I am finding that here too there is a rich textile tradition and many contemporary producers in the field but with much less support and visibility. This is where I have decided to position myself and while the process will be slow and grow organically, this is the vision:
Through the sharing of my research, experiences and philosophical ponderings I aim to use this space as a platform, a directory of sorts, to promote and connect producers, suppliers, retailers and consumers of local, handcrafted textiles.
Please join me on this journey under which the free sharing of resources will be the central foundation.
Pictured here is a natural indigo dye vat in the workspace behind the home of the Vishramji Siju's an award winnimg family of master weavers from Bhujodhi who operate under the handloom brand Vankar Vishram Valji. Find them @vankar_vishram_valji or
DM me for their contact details.
6 866:27 AM Dec 14, 2018
I've been spending alot of time lately going through my photos, writings and thoughts from my trip through India.
This trip affected me in many profound ways, shaping both who I am, how I see the world and carving away my little path in it.
My passion for textiles, respect for artisans and concern for consumption practices and market demands have been solidified in an immovable way. As I go through my images and the beginning pieces of stories that I have penned so far I am feeling more resolute than ever to put these things out into the world.
The conversations that I have had and the ideas wrestled with have been equally beautiful, fascinating and at times difficult to confront.
Slowly I am building towards a little space out in the world where I can share these stories and I hope to be able to share even a small part of the value that I have found in them.
My greatest hope is that this can serve as a platform to highlight the work that so many incredibly skilled and hardworking artisans in developing nations are doing in the area of handcrafted textiles.
As I am able to set aside the time, I will be publishing stories and beginning a directory of sorts on my website, the link to which is in my bio.
I am just beginning in this personal journey of writing and blogging and at times it is a little difficult and quite raw.
If the urge strikes please share any thoughts or constructive criticism with me as I would love to create as much discussion on these topics as possible.
This picture was taken down a side alley in the UNESCO heritage city of Ahmedabad in the early morning and serves as a reminder to me that there is beauty in even the simplest of moments. •
8 6412:51 PM Dec 13, 2018
I took this photograph a couple of weeks ago in the home of the most lovely family of weavers in Bhujodi, Kutch.
It is a simple image of a small detail of daily life which I find immense joy in.
The weavers and many of the artisans of Kutch have been the beneficiaries of some of the most effective crafts empowerment initiatives in India and it is really a joy to see how many of these artisans are thriving from their craft out in the desert on the western border of india.
While life is still tough and competition increasingly strong, many of these communities prize and maintain their simple lifestyles and rich traditions. In contrast, many weaving communities throughout the country struggle to make ends meet - to put it mildly - resulting in a loss of a sense of pride and even dignity in their own craftsmanship. As a symbol of this, as well as of financial desperation and lack of access to raw materials, I found it surprisingly rare for weavers to hold onto their own cloth for personal use.
Conversely, in Bhujodi it is common to see tell tale signs of the weavers' occupation throughout their daily lives. Not only is it common for weavers to be clothed in cloth woven by their own hand, but their daily lives too are filled with textiles woven on the looms around which their homes and communities are centred. •
Situated 35km outside of Jaipur, Bagru has become world famous for its handblock printing and natural dyeing. It is a small village and a majority of residents are engaged in printing and its auxiliary activities.
These Chippas - the traditional printing community - are now supplying much of the world with their handblock printed cloth and much of the international market in particular are demanding the natural dyeing techniques which have been developed and perfected here over the centuries.
Bagru is one of a handful of Rajasthani towns where these techniques have thrived as a result of local water sources which directly effect the quality of resists, dyes and printing.
The industry is by nature a heavy consumer of water and in this desert state the major surge in demand is placing heavy strain on an already highly sensitive and quickly dwindling water supply.
Pictured here is a piece of electrically driven chemical dyeing machinery spotted in a back alley of Bagru. While chemical dyes have been demonized to an extent within sustainability discussions a reality is that they use significantly less water than natural processes and therefore provide an immediate relief on the water supply. However, the post dye water is commonly disposed of in the same manner as natural dyes, out in the streets and fields. The toxins are then absorbed by the earth, leading to contamination of ground water.
Soon there will have to be some major shifts in approaches to water as drought conditions are becoming more prevalent across the world and especially in western India and I will be following the discussion with eager interest. •
I'd like to take a moment to welcome my new followers and share a little bit about myself 👋
As individuals and citizens of the world, we all have different modivations and interests that guide the choices behind our personal bucket lists.
One of my biggest guiding factor when choosing a travel destination is access to and preservation of, cultural folklore. This often comes in the form of art, textiles, dance, food, storytelling, ritual and tradition.
Knowing this it should come as no surprise that my bucket list for 2019 includes destinations such as 🇪🇸 Spain, 🇲🇦 Morocco, and 🇨🇴 Colombia.
I'd love it if you would share your 2019 bucket list hopefuls with me below in the comments and what criteria you use to select your destinations. ✨
💃🏻 Tour Announcement 💃🏻 Our new Frida & Folk Art tour of Mexico City for April 2019 will go on sale on Boxing Day! Further details and information will be sent out to our email subscribers in the coming weeks, you can sign up via the link in our Instagram bio, but please add us to your address book so our email doesn’t end up in your spam folder. Alternatively you can email us directly at [email protected] to get your name on our VKP (very keen participant) list! 📸 Photo Credit: Exhibition view, Appearances Can Be Deceiving at the Frida Kahlo Museum, 2012 by Miguel Tovar.
16 10874:44 AM Nov 26, 2018
On this year's Grand British Textile Tour we were lucky enough to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the Victoria and Albert museum, which displayed a collection of her incredibly beautiful garments. The whole exhibit was gorgeous. But next year! Next year The Grand British Textile Tour will be in town for the Mary Quant exhibit – and if you know me at all, you know the Swingin '60s are my jam. I'm already trying to decide what kind of miniskirt action I'm going to wear.
The Grand British Textile Tour will be June 14-23, 2019. You should come!
Miniskirts recommended, but not required. It was only in retrospect that I realized we all should have donned our best Frida look. #fridakahlo#grandtextiletoura#sewcialists#isew#sewover50#createeveryday#handmadewardrobe#wanderlust#textiletravel#textile#textileart#textiletour#textiletours
4 6911:22 PM Nov 24, 2018
💃🏻 Tour announcement 💃🏻 We are currently finalizing our new Frida’s Mexico City tour for the 6th - 11th April 2019 🗓 This tour will provide a in-depth look at the life and lifestyle of this incredible woman through the exploration of her relationship with fashion and textiles, visits to her homes, critiques of her works, participating in her favorite pastimes and seeing the places of significance to her in the city, plus markets🛍, mariachi🎺, museums🏛 and workshops✂️! This tour is perfect for any women interested in learning about Frida Kahlo and Mexican folk art, craft and textiles. The tour won’t go on sale until after Christmas but you can show your expression of interest today by signing up via the link in our Instagram bio or by sending us a DM 💌 Photo by Nickolas Muray 📸
Yesterday I came across Waziri shawls for the first time in a vintage textile dealer's basement warehouse in Jaipur and fell absolutely in love with them.
The Waziris are Pashtun tribes from Afghanistan and parts of modern day Pakistan. In local Rajasthani vintage textile markets these shawls are apparently rather common along with a massive volume of other embroideries and textiles from this region.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been learning alot about the indian vintage textile market and have had many interesting conversations with dealers about their supply chains.
While the European export market has boomed from around the 60s and 70s many of the families in the trade have been doing this work for generations and now are facing the reality that the supply of quality old handwork is quickly drying up.
As beautiful as these textiles are and as amazing as it is to be able to see such a deep history and vast varieties of handworked textiles so readily accessible I find it rather heart breaking to track the retail prices back to what the original owners get paid for their work. These pieces are often family heirlooms, painstakingly adorned personal affects or prized dowry objects which are sold for a meagre fee. Owners sell because of personal priorities and so do buyers buy, creating a somewhat fair market.
Two points that I feel important in this exchange as follows:
This is the selling off of a material culture and fine objects laboured over endlessly by handskilled craftspeople. Because they are old or because of the immediate humanity of the exchange people often feel to bargain hard, driving down the prices unlike one would dare to with designer brands. To me this shows greater respect given to corporations than the human scaled artisan.
Secondly, many of these techniques and traditions are dying out if they have not already. Where at all possible (and often it is, through a bit of research and the right network) I believe we should be finding contemporary producers and supporting revival projects which are inherently more sustainable and supports livelihood rather than a pawn economy.
19 923:27 AM Nov 18, 2018
India has an incredibly long history with cotton. As a geographically huge and diverse land, it naturally developed thousands of varieties and adaptations of indigenous (referred to as Desi locally) cottons. In modern times this has been reduced to one hybrid strain, BT Cotton, which dominates 96% of cotton farm acreage nationally.
Gujarat is India's largest producer of cotton. While most of this is bt, in places like Kutch there have been productive movements to cultivate and process Kala Cotton, a Gujarati desi strain.
Pictured here is khora Kala cotton yardage fresh from the loom in a weaving home in Bhujodi, Kutch.
Khora means "plain" and refers in this case to undyed and unbleached cotton which has a beautifully warm neutral tone. Because of the nature of the short staple cotton, Kala has looser weave and a natural texture to it, the kind which is both enriched and softened in the washing and wearing.
There is a bit of confusion in terminology in kutch when it comes to Kala and the definition of desi and organic. Many of the locals believe Kala is organic, while the common rhetoric of organic refers to the conditions under which the seed and crop are developed and treated.
While one can't always tick every box on the ethical taglist, one things is for sure: the Kala cotton cloth being woven in Kutch is beautiful, wholesome and evokes a certain connection to the natural environment which is both rare and very special.
The last time I was in Jaisalmer I spotted this weave in the Khadi Bhandar and was immediately drawn to it.
Three months later and I'm back hunting down the story of the weave and this is what I've found so far.
This is the Pattu of the Thar region of Western Rajasthan and is traditionally woven in either camel or sheep wool. It is woven in twill on a narrow pit loom by the Meghwal community. It is traditionally found in a cream, black or brown body informed by the natural undyed wool with bright geometric patterns made through an extra weft technique.
The Pattu was traditionally used by men and women alike as a blanket / shawl in the very cold desert winters but now with powerlooms, synthetic fibres, mass produced garments being readily available in the market and changes in climate, they are quickly disappearing.
Cotton Pattus are available now through the UMBVS, an organisation working with village weavers of the Thar region on retailing and marketing. The local Khadi Bhandars are stocking pattus woven locally in imported Merino wool (as encouraged by the government (?!). However, the traditional Pattu seems very much on the brink of existence in communities where weaving is quickly dying out with the older generations who insist that the younger generations turn to more modern and urban forms of income generation. •
For the last month, I've been co-leading a public Facebook group called Worldwide Textile Tribe with @hauteculturetextiletours, a community which has grown to 3200 enthusiasts (wahoo!).
The concept is to promote and celebrate the study of textiles, cultural trends, techniques and traditional dresses from around the world.
If you’re interested in joining, then I would thoroughly recommend following the link and joining a global community of like-minded textiles enthusiasts.🤩 Consider it your space for inspiration, project ideas, photos and articles from a global perspective and for brainstorming and crafting plans for your cultural textile business.
We want to have valuable conversations and learn from each other and social platforms are helping to make the world a moreaccessible, friendlier place.
Today is the day all you textile lovers have been waiting for, our new tour Mexico: Frida, Fashions, Fabrics and Fiestas 🇲🇽💃🏻🌹 is now on sale to email subscribers! So if you signed up to the mailing list please check your inbox 💌 We have sold 5 places this morning already, so that means there’s only 3 places left! This beautiful image of Frida Kahlo was created out of recycled materials by the brilliantly talented textile artist Jane Perkins.