Seeker x Retriever's Lily print created in collaboration with Studio Bagru
As Seeker x Retriever turns three years old, we have been contemplating what is most important to us as a brand and questioning just what ethical fashion means to us. It has always been our hope and aim to make items that can be loved forever, while at the same time supporting the precious techniques of small communities that have stood the test of time. That's why earlier this year, we decided to expand our horizon by traveling to the enchanting town of Jaipur, in northern India, to learn more about the traditional method of woodblock printing with Studio Bagru.
Started in 2016, Studio Bagru aims to encourage entrepreneurial development in Bagru, a small town with a rich history in textiles located about an hour and a half from Jaipur city. Almost all those who live in the town are engaged somehow in the craft, with homes doubling as workshops devoted to printing, washing or carving patterns into wooden blocks. We chatted with Studio Bagru founder Jeremy Fritzhand about the growth of Bagru's artisan community and the obstacles they face.
What makes printing in Bagru special?
Bagru has nearly 400 years of block print history. The artisans (printers, dyers, washers, carvers) are often in their fifth, sixth or more generation in this craft. Bagru is well known for two types of printing: dabu printing, a resist method of printing using mud paste and dye (typically indigo); and begar siyahi, an ink method of printing using black (a fermented mixture of rusted iron, water, jaggery) and red (alum, alizarine) ink. Each part of the process is specialized in Bagru, from the carving of the blocks, washing of the fabric, and printing/dyeing of the cloth.
What is the process behind creating Seeker x Retriever's fabric?
First, the fabric is washed to remove any impurities. It is then printed with a resist layer called dabu (mud paste made from black clay, acacia gum, calcium, spoiled wheat flower, and limestone). After this layer hardens on the fabric, the fabric is dyed in an AZO-free dye. It is then spread open on the ground and left to dry in the sun. Next, the mud resist (dabu) is removed in a bath of alum and water. Again, it is spread open to dry in the sun. Once dry, the fabric is brought back into the workshops, spread on the table, and printed using a pigment color (blue). It is given a final wash, dried, and then steam-pressed.
How does Studio Bagru help to change the local community?
We offer new opportunities to the printing families and assist when printers are trying to grow their business by sharing knowledge about marketing and sales. Twice a year we hold a cleanup project collecting trash from the communal drying area and educating the youngsters about sustainability and environmentalism. We are also launching a codesign program with a group of women artisans so they can develop new indigenous designs that will be protected, marketed, and sold around the world. The women will receive royalties from the designs they create.
What is your stance on ethical/environmental issues?
Water is the biggest concern for most of the local community in Bagru. We are working on water recycling projects and rainwater collection so there will be sustainable options in the future.
What is ethical/eco-friendly fashion in your own words?
Ethical fashion encourages transparent supply chains that fairly compensate each person involved in making a product. Eco-friendly fashion puts an emphasis on environmentally friendly materials used in the product and careful consideration and disposal of the byproducts (water, ink, textile waste, etc) of the production.
Studio Bagru offers workshops for those who would like to learn more about their special printing techniques. Find out more here.
If you believe in slow fashion and supporting traditional crafts, we hope you can join us on Seeker x Retriever's journey as we constantly experiment with slow materials and production methods that don't cost the earth. Find out more about our core values here.
Seeker x Retriever's Collection No. 8: Lost in Bloom is available now via our online shop.