I’ve often wondered how that misunderstanding between me and my suppliers happen, especially since all my letters are illustrated with detailed explanations. At first I used to think it was because of my poor Hindi that the suppliers would often misinterpret or overlook certain details in my order. Now I’m starting to think that the best way to get the job done is to have a textile designer working closely with them- a Brass Tacks employee who works on my design team to come up with designs for each collection and then coordinates with the suppliers to execute the designs. Seems like an expensive investment, but definitely something I need to look into in the long run. Next month I am making a trip to Jaipur and Ahmedabad, and hopefully I will be able to meet some faculty and students at NID who work with textile craftsmen and see what they think about this.
Ideally though, the craftsmen should have their own textile designer on their team. Things would be a lot easier for buyers if the designer can help the craftsmen come up with a set of swatches to send to suppliers, and a documentation system so that the swatches can be replicated relatively easily. The designer could also make life easier for the supplier by working on new designs and new techniques of dyeing or weaving to cater to a variety of tastes. The investment of a full time textile designer is too expensive for the craftsmen who work at a grass roots level however, and only larger organizations like Rehwa and Dastkar Andhra can afford to invest in research and development with textile designers on board. The tough part about a small company like mine hiring a full time textile designer is that he or she would have to be an expert on a variety of textile crafts in order to work with weavers, block printers, and tie-dyers. That kind of varied expertise is hard to find.
In other related news, I recently met a woman with an MBA who wants to start a business supplying designers and production houses with handloom fabrics that have an “international market”. This would involve organizing weaver’s cooperatives to use their craft skills for designs that are not necessarily traditional. For example, it could mean that a weaver in Gujarat who makes shawls with a large motif woven all over it might have to change his design to smaller motifs that are woven far apart because that minimal look with a hint of extra weft design is easier to sell to an international buyer. The issue of modifying traditional designs to suit a “cosmopolitan, urban, international” market is something that I’ll take up in some other post, but for the moment let’s see the practical and financial benefits. This is the innovation that’s needed to revive and organize the textile sector. Catering to an existing demand is a much better business model than trying to push a product that doesn’t have a huge demand at price points that are profitable for the business. Plus for designers like me, think how easy it would make our lives if we could just contact someone, explain the design to them and pay that extra fee to pass your headache of following up with suppliers and ensuring they get your design right onto the agent.
Below is a picture showing the sample I had sent the weaver on the left, and his woven product on the right. The size of the checks and the dull finish in the sample swatch make all the difference to the final look of the fabric.
And here is a block printed fabric from Rajasthan. The checked design is theirs, but I had asked for a darker blue with ochre and instead I got something that's closer to turquoise with ochre. Also, notice the quality of the checks and how some of them are not well defined.
This one however came closer to what I had asked for in terms of colour matching my pantone shades.