February 06, 2020
Artisan Story: Lucia is Slow Fashion
Taking it back to our true bohemian roots, Lucia is a celebration of authenticity, inherent beauty, heritage, quality & a passion for protecting our planet.
Inspired by the many vintage treasures uncovered on our travels, it was an Indian 70’s gem that sparked this journey. More than 18 months from design to delivery,
we chose to create Lucia by adopting the super sustainable, ancient art of block-printing on one of our preferred fibres, organic cotton.
In collaboration with a group of highly skilled artisans in India, our vision came to life. Now we want to share the artistry of these limited-edition,
small-run treasures with you, as it’s important that you know the love story behind who made your clothes and how they were made.
THE ANCIENT BLOCK PRINTING PROCESS
The art of block printing is an ancient practice tracing back to the fifth century B.C.
Yet today this time-consuming, labour-intensive printing process is still very much alive in hundreds of villages throughout the Indian state of Rajasthan.
The artisans that we have collaborated with are centred around the village of Sanganer, located just outside of Jaipur, where generations of families have been preserving
ancient tradition, cultural heritage and their livelihoods by passing the art of block-printing down through generations.
Lucia is slow-fashion.
The story begins with a divine vintage sari that sparked the creative minds of our designer Helene and founder Arnhem
into passionately sketching the designs of each Lucia piece. To preserve the look of the vintage sari print the original art of block-printing had to be adopted.
Our Production Coordinator Sam and Sustainability Coordinator Jyoti were tasked with finding an artisan partner who had a shared passion for sustainability and ethical manufacturing.
Having narrowed their search and identified the perfect partner our team visited Sanganer village in India to bring the beautiful designs to life.
In small open studios father and son teams meticulously chisel and carve designs into blocks of wood.
With an understanding of how the process begins, liaison began between the craftsmen and Arnhem to establish how the print could be brought to life.
Each different colour and pattern within the print requiring its own wooden block.
Each of these blocks carved by the hands of artisans, taking hours, even days to complete.
Conversations deepened as we collaborated on the perfect saturation and hues to find pastel perfection for the Lucia print.
And with a shared respect for the planet, cross-continent discussions took place to ensure that Lucia was consciously printed to achieve minimal fabric waste.
With strike-offs achieved it was onto final printing.
In workshops around Sanganer, Chippas – a caste of printer, take the hand-carved wooden blocks and skilfully apply dyes.
They proceed to stamp lengths of organic cotton fabric with blocks specific to each element of the print.
To create our unique, complex design, each printed layer is left to dry, before the next element of the print can be applied to the very same length of organic cotton fabric.
Each part of this multistep process a skilled labour of love. The rhythms of blocks stamping the fabric like a heartbeat giving life to the design.
The true beauty of this handcraft process is in the tiny imperfections, meaning that no two garments will be the same.
This level of refinement impossible if printed by machine - and it’s this quality that makes each and every piece of Lucia unique.
Here at Arnhem, we always work with manufacturers and suppliers whose values closely align with ours.
The artisans we worked with to create Lucia are employees of a fair trade manufacturer, located in Sanganer, Rajasthan.
They practice the traditional artisan hand block printing methods of Jaipur with a commitment to fair labour standards and improved environmental practices.
The environment is at the forefront of their hand block printing process.
They use AZO free, low impact dyes, free from harmful substances, ensuring sustainable use & treatment of water.
Designs are then printed onto Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified organic cotton.
But with a shared passion for the planet our makers continuously work to improve their environmental standards,
aiming to further improve water filtration during the block printing and dyeing process.
Water is a precious and scarce due to the desert like conditions of Rajasthan and block printing requires a significant amount of water.
Being mindful of water consumption our makers have introduced the CleanWater4Artisans program.
This program uses funds raised to install rain catchment systems and solar panels, and they have designed and built an Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP).
The ETP cleans the water by filtering out the dye residue so that clean water can be recycled and re-used.
The ETP reduces water consumption by up to 80%.
One of the key reasons for Arnhem moving to digital printing from screen printing was water consumption and the prevention of release of toxic dyes back into waterways.
But with this new sustainable move we can honestly say that we’re beyond happy to have found a way to embrace artisan block printing sustainably,
whilst managing to conserve water too!
INVESTING IN MORE THAN THE PLANET
There are so many environmental benefits of block printing on organic cotton.
No GMO seeds, toxic chemicals, insecticides or pesticides are used, protecting insect populations, biodiversity, soil health & farmer livelihoods.
Growing techniques use less water, reducing the impact of acidification of both land and water.
Manual and organic farming practices lower the carbon footprint and allow the renewal of the entire eco system in a sustainable way.
Using azo-free dyes means less chemical and grey water runoff into the environment,
plus toxic compounds ranging from chlorine bleach to known carcinogens such as aryl amines and heavy metals are avoided.
Printing by hand reduces energy consumption, thus reducing the carbon footprint of textile production.
Additionally the block printing process gives a means of livelihood to artisans by supporting their work and promoting small-scale decentralised production throughout rural India.
Through this collaboration the national heritage craft of India is preserved and promotes artisans’ access to markets at a global level.
From our bohemian roots it’s only natural that we should levitate towards slow and sustainable fashion that protects and supports both planet and people.
Every piece of Lucia is 100% sustainable so you can feel super special about that too 💞