My work in the garment industry takes me to a lot of far away places. I love seeing the local handicrafts, like weaving, dyeing, embroidery, and local clothing. This has led me to collecting Indian saris, Indonesian batiks, and Chinese embroidered silk pajamas. I have found wonderful buttons in Korea, and blazer patches in a New Delhi bazaar that are worthy of the most expensive Ralph Loren cashmere jackets.
Here I am in the packing department of a handloom/powerloom weaver in Coimbatore India. This is very far off the beaten path! Yet it is hard to find ‘local’ product – it is all made for export.
It’s tough though, as usually I only get to see the hotel, the factory, and the road in between on these trips, they don’t pay me to be a tourist. I have to steal time away, and beg people to take me to places where such things can be found. Often the local people devalue the indigenous crafts, they all want blue jeans and tee shirts, Adidas and Coca Cola. I would much rather have a chai in a rough hut in an old part of town and discuss making something with a elderly tailor who’s been trained in British-style menswear traditions. Give me an old guy, any day, who learned the old school way, rather than a young’un who wants to be all modern.
Earlier this month when I was in Mexico, it was no different. I had to ask several people to guide me to finding local embroidery and weaving, leaving them to scratch their heads and wonder where I might find such a thing. Finally, I found out that a small town near Puebla called Cholula had a Saturday market, and that there were 2 old ladies that often had local style embroidery and weavings for sale. Unfortunately we had to leave for the long drive to the airport in Mexico City at 10 am, so time was very short to mount an expedition. “They are at the market at the foot of the Mayan Pyramid” was the only directions we got, so it meant driving around losing time getting lost for awhile before we found it. Sure enough, the 2 old ladies were there, getting set up for the day. It was early and most of the others who would lay out their wares had not even shown up yet. It was so early that I was in a fog and neglected to photograph the women in front of the Mayan pyramid. I hope I can go back some day and get that photo, and see what else might be at that tiny market.
I was underwhelmed. There was not much selection, and the fabric used was the wretched poly/cotton that I can’t abide. I chose the 2 best pieces – the most sophisticated in terms of color and pattern. I suppose I could unstitch the handmade bits and set them on another garment – but that’s a project for a rainy day in the distant future. Meanwhile, it is totally awe inspiring the amount of work on these 2 garments, and what a surprise when you get up close!
Here is the black one, most definitely poly cotton.
The red and black one may actually be cotton, but most likely not.