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By John Patrick

Ethically made handwoven products have a huge market in USA. But Indian producers must reach out—and in a contemporary way

Longstanding agricultural roots and weaving traditions make India a fertile ground for new opportunities in sustainable and organic textile expansion. As shrinking supplies of raw materials becomes more and more common around the world, India, more so than ever, needs to both conserve its millennium-old textile heritage, as well as, retool the way it reaches out to prospective markets.

“I am launching a project called communitie.net later this year and would be happy to create a category for businesses that want to feature novel textiles and products that are relevant to all kinds of work and interests. Communitie.net is very interested in reaching out and partnering with our Indian brothers and sisters”

Let’s start with ideas for manufacturers to tap into international trends and precisely speaking, to communicate with the US market in a modern way. Source Map (www.sourcemap.com) is a great source for identifying the story of supply chain, ie, potential users of the product that a manufacturer is producing can see the entire process transparently through Source Map. This includes the growing of fibre, the processing and finishing as well as the process of dyeing, if applicable. Communication is the key in regards to the US market, now that the World Wide Web has made it virtually instant to lookup where products come from and how. Manufacturers can quickly and easily set up a source map (for free) for a product and communicate this via social media and through certain sustainable textile libraries and other outlets.

I will be launching a new project called communitie.net later this year and would be happy to create a category for the businesses that would like to feature interesting, novel textiles and products that are relevant to all kinds of work and interests. Communitie.net is very interested in reaching out and partnering with our Indian brothers and sisters who would like to tell their story about how they develop and produce their products. For businesses that are able to have skilled help come and visit, I think that it is helpful to have merchandising of collections done before they are presented to the design community, so that the offerings are both edited and on trend.

New Marketing Style Required

Many times manufacturers show entire suitcases of fabric swatches that are years old and dated. This is both confusing to the designers and counterproductive. Fabrics that are developed for a collection and season should have some available sampling. A good model to look at would be The Sustainable Angle (www.thesustainableangle.org), which was founded by my friend Nina Marenzi. With this non profit library, she has created a wonderful source of information and relevant product that have become world famous now. I think that it would be a good idea for those suppliers in India who are interested to form something similar that it be educational and transparent—open source textiles being the way of the future, showing both the great artistry and diversity of product that India is famous for. 

Design, art and architectural schools are also great sources of talent and imagination for businesses to communicate and show the range of products and projects that are happening. Taking great pride in one’s own country and telling the story is critical for the future success of the Indian textile and manufacturing universe. Design contests could be held to showcase both design and digital ideas to make things easily accessible and to become even more relevant in the new world economy.

US Market is Huge on Handwoven

I would like to stress the US interest in handmade products that are ethically produced by the often forgotten producers, who rely wholly on the art of their ancestors to live and survive. The heirloom cotton that is grown in Bhuj and the handwoven textiles produced there would be of special interest for many people, I am certain.

Another example that comes to mind is the Rehwa Society of Madhya Pradesh, which would be a wonderful addition to the textile library and a possible source of collaboration. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to combine the power of industry with the love that comes from handwork? For example, an industrial mill could collaborate with a group of hand weavers to create large scale production, which would be a win win situation for both. 

The US market is huge and is always looking for original stories, materials and content, and India is fertile ground for all of the above. I would personally like to see some real innovation and design stories emerge to make this marriage and connection fruitful for a long time. For the suppliers, to truly think out of the box and come up with new ideas will be what the US market will respond to most quickly— which is not hard to do, but it takes thought and concentration. Let’s not go back to the same old ideas. Let’s show the world that India has both the past and the future firmly in her hand. To accomplish all of this is a big task but I am certain that if you take few of the ideas that I have put forth and focus, you can have good success. Good, orderly direction is what I prefer to give to my work designers, and of course, good, honest materials to make beautiful and lasting things.

Communication is Key

It is important to stress to suppliers that communication is very important and it can help businesses build lasting relationships. Sending swatches of the developed textiles and products is a great way to open up the conversation and create excitement with potential clients. I just received 20 handblocked sarongs from India— which will become a mainstay in my new retail concept shop that I am opening in Marfa, Texas. If I had not reached out to the supplier and he had not sent me the samples, the business would have never happened. I cannot stress enough about talking to potential clients and identifying their needs. There are so many possibilities for collaboration but it takes time on both sides and a seriousness of intent. It’s better to start with a small serious customer rather than a big customer that won’t come back. Business relationships and supply chains take work on both sides. 

In the 21st century, there are limitless opportunities for collaborations all over the world, and India, as a textile treasure and giant, needs to become a leader. A great example of international cooperation is the Keer Group from China. They have invested USD 250 mn in a new facility in the US. Some of the larger businesses could consider such a collaboration or investment– it could even be a finishing facility.

I look forward to a grand tour of all of the Indian suppliers one day, so that I may also tell part of their story on this side of the world. Please feel free to write to me and tell me your story, and show me your products and your source maps.

 

The author is Founder of ‘Organic By John Patrick’, an ethical and organic apparel brand based in New York, USA


This article appeared in the October 2015 issue of Pure & Eco India

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