Trip explores traditional design arts in India

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Fashion Design and Technology students had the opportunity to see and take part in responsible and sustainable traditional craft practices on a recent study trip to India, where the Manchester Fashion Institute has a number of industry and educational partners.

The group of seven students travelled to the city of Jaipur and smaller villages around the city with Head of Internationalisation, Jane Ledbury, and Exchanges Manager Vicki Markham, to meet with Manchester Fashion Institute’s exchange partner Pearl Academy which organised the trip as part of a growing agenda for sustainability in design and to learn how this informs the product development process.

Jane said: “Our high streets here in Britain are filled with Indian-inspired pieces – you can see embroidery and embellished items in so many of our stores. We visited some incredible places in India with vibrant and rich cultures and the students experienced at first hand, the traditional handicrafts of the country. They also got to create some beautiful work.”

Vicki added: “A truly inspirational trip for both the students and for the staff. Seeing artisan craftsmen in Rajasthan in their own environment and how they welcomed then encouraged the students to take part in their craft was amazing . An exhibition will also be held so this knowledge and experience can be shared with other staff and students.”

Inspirational craft clusters

The group visited three different ‘craft clusters’ – areas with communities dedicated to a traditional art– including wood block printing, intricate tie-dying and metal work embroidery.

Each cluster, often entire villages, contributed to the trade with locals being employed and equipment being built and maintained in the villages, and products and off-cut materials being recycled by the community into a number of products from accessories to hand-made paper.

One student, Bethan Stacey, said: “India has been an inspirational, educational and unique experience. Visiting India was incredible and allowed me to immerse myself in a new culture. The trip has encouraged me to think of ways these traditional methods can be adapted and used in my final collection.”

During the trip the students were hosted by artisans, whose families had practised traditional crafts in their rural villages for hundreds of years, and were able to immerse themselves in the culture of craftsmanship. Bethan added: “Visiting the villages in Rajasthan was a rare privilege that allowed me to view some of the traditional crafting techniques still taking place in India today. It was amazing to be able to see the craft clusters perform their skills and be shown the basics of the techniques, allowing me to understand the processes better.”

Another student, Molly Louise Cartwright, said: “India has inspired me going into my final year and has opened my eyes to the vast amount of crafts available to designers. Working in a sustainable manner is something I can hopefully work towards to create a more sustainable.”

Broadening horizons

Student Eleanor Cowlard stated: “It really has been a trip of a lifetime, I have learnt far more than I could have ever imagined from the India Craft cluster trip. It has taught me how to interact with a completely new culture. It has inspired me to broaden my horizons, and made me aware of how much India has to offer. I am completely in awe of the skill that goes into all of the handcrafted fabrics and garments. I feel so privileged to have got the chance to see it all happening first hand, and even have a go at it myself. I have been able to source beautifully crafted fabrics, many of which you could not obtain in our own country. This experience has really set me up for my final year of university, and I cannot wait to use everything that I have learnt within my work”.