Hand Weaving

 
It is little known that hand making textiles dates back thousands of years and goes hand in hand with the evolution of mankind. From the first use of twine to catch fish and small animals, to weaving to basic nets to store and carry food and the use of furs as protective clothing; harnessing natural fibres gave early humans the upper hand in environments they were ill equipped for. Transitioning from rudimental hunting materials to fine cloths, the earliest found looms date back 8000 years in China and 4500 years in Egypt. As fabrics became more intricate they became a symbol of wealth and trading them helped to form the worlds early economies. The lustrous fabrics that formed the foundations of the Silk Road trade route helped to develop the world’s first superpowers in Asia. As a textiles enthusiast I’m proud that the craft I love so much has helped to shape the world as we know it today.

 

 

 

The hand weaving communities that remain today date back hundreds of years with skills being passed from generation to generation. As a practise it has progressed from being another household chore carried out by women, to being revered as artistry, reserved for the most experienced hands. Today there are over 4 million hand weavers in India so it’s safe to say hand weaving has survived the thread of industrialisation. However it has a history fraught with challenges, with British colonialism responsible for dismantling the Indian textiles market and moving production to factories in the north of England. While British mills boomed with a faster, mechanical way of producing cloth, the social and economic impact on India was catastrophic. India went from being creators of the worlds finest cloths to an exporter of the raw material alone: cotton.

 

 

 

In the name of speed and efficiency, industrialisation changed the shape of the textiles industry. While the markets benefited from cheaper prices, the real losses have had a lasting effect today. Production and consumption have accelerated exponentially giving us a never ending cycle of low quality clothing which moves from field to loom to shop to landfill within a matter of months. The modern fashion industry relies so heavily on machine and computer production, that it misses out on the immense value of using craft to create our clothes. However, there is a growing demand for clothes that are made with care and consideration at each stage of the supply chain.

 

 

At Henri, finding this balance has always been important to what we do. Hand weaving takes a level of skill that is incomparable with any other textile craft, with wooden looms taking a day to weave just 3 metres. We have created the entire Spring collection using our archival cuts in 100% hand woven fabrics. With approximately 1000 hours of hand weaving having gone into the collection, the lived experiences of individuals written into our garments is palpable. The most valuable part of a hand woven fabric is knowing that every inch of fabric tells the story of someone’s day, life, and ancestral history.

 

 

Over the past few years we've noticed the shift in demand for more hand crafted products along with an increasing concern for the garment workers, their families, the environment and animals accompanying it. Making intentional decisions on our purchases honours the diverse histories of people and communities impacted by them. Across the world the traditions of hand weaving are being kept very much alive and it is a privilege to be a part of this story.