Communication is key for artisans seeking to work with global designers, taking their designs from unknown to global resonance.
“People may be getting too many emails in their general inbox, but everyone checks their DMs,” said Bibhu Mohapatra, the designer and founder of his namesake brand at the first edition of the Global Eco Artisan Awards, or GEAA, held virtually on Tuesday. He was invited as a special speaker to the event.
In a global fashion market cluttered with too much stuff, be it clothing or emails, he finds the best outreach to be more informal. “Whether it’s Twitter or Instagram, I think any sort of outreach is super helpful and sending [designers] examples, photographs of your work. A lot of the artisans I have found in the last 10 years of my namesake brand [were] through people reaching out to me.”
In the designer’s collection for fall 2021, the focus again centered on timelessness and craft, drawing inspiration from the artist/muse relationship. Raised in Indian culture surrounded by artisans and vibrant textile traditions, the brand has long uplifted artisanal work.
“After I connect with someone, then that opens up a world for me through their network. Communication is the key and telling the story, really the essence of what you do as an artisan.…I think collaborations like this are the new way of giving something unique to the audience,” said Mohapatra.
Providing a platform for that “something unique,” in Mohapatra’s words, is what Saloni Shrestha, founder and creative head of the sustainable luxury brand Agaati (which put on the awards ceremony) is hoping to activate.
The GEAA platform is designed to celebrate, connect and champion emerging artisans of the world, with some of those artisans like Raquel Eliserio, a winner from the Philippines, dedicating two months to weave her submission out of pineapple fiber. There were more than 400 artisan submissions across textiles and accessories categories, of which 80 percent were from women. Each top-prize winner received $2,000 to put toward their businesses. Judges based decisions off of three criteria: authenticity, adaptability and quality.
“I must say it is not just my livelihood now, but my passion,” said Eliserio, of the pineapple weaving tradition of which she is now a fifth generation practicer. She is a cultural master hailed by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and a proud member of HABI the Philippine Textile Council.
Her textile was made by weaving the knotted but delicate piña fibers while inlaying fibers in between the warp, which gave the fabric an ecru tissue look. She used what’s called a suksuk technique, which is a complex weaving technique, throughout the fabric.
“The pride of being an artisan is coming back,” said Radhikaraje Gaekwad, queen of Baroda, India, textile conservationist and director of CDS Arts Foundation, another judge. “More and more people are acknowledging that handmade is something beautiful and that there is a higher lever of education and skill development that is taking place. The younger generation are trying to incorporate the saree tradition of craftsmanship as well as bringing in the newer techniques and innovation. I see that happening all over.”
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