Whitecliffe HOD Fashion Design Belinda Watt, recent graduates and students from Years Four and Three, Sophia Butler, Katie Davison, Zuzana Edwards, Jessica Greetham, Sojung Lim, Wilson Ong, Grace Pearson-Green and Nicole Wesseling recently returned from an exciting trip to India after winning The Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia (PMSA) at the end of last year.
The Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design Fashion Design department was awarded the PMSA for students’ ongoing participation in ethical and sustainable work and research with Project Matatika 2015. The group was selected to travel to India in January to present the project and images of their recent collections to fashion students at Pearl Academy in Delhi. While in India, the students partook in numerous educational opportunities and cultural exchanges, including learning about ethical and sustainable fashion practices and traditional artisan craft skills. Belinda Watt writes about the opportunities and experiences the Whitecliffe group had while in India:
In the first week, we initially spent some time getting to know and understand the experimental city of Auroville. We had a session with a designer from Tommy Hilfiger, who is working on a sustainable project and spending time with Indian crafts people and in the factories, acting as a liaison between the company, the factory workers and the mills.
We visited ethical fashion brand Upasana's design studio, which also set up an initiative called Tsunamika to provide work for the wives of the fishermen lost in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. The same day, we traveled to Pondicherry to retail venture Janaki, which stocks ethically produced, organic clothing for men and women as well as home wares.
The next day, we met co-founder of Eco Femme, a global women's empowerment initiative, followed by a meeting with the founder of TIP 4 Change (Transparent Industry Practices), an organic cotton-farming project.
We visited Colours of Nature the following day, where we were shown their fermented organic indigo dye process. On the fourth day, we met with a representative of Fairwear Foundation, an organisation based on the eight United Nations Standards for Ethical and Fair Production and Employment.
The students volunteered at the Tsunamika Festival in the following days, recognising the 10-year anniversary of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. They managed the Janaki, Upasana and Tsunamika stalls in creating innovative displays and banners and selling merchandise to festival attendees.
Next, we traveled to Delhi where we met with fashion students from Pearl Academy and invited them to join Project Matatika 2015. We engaged in very interesting group discussions looking at the role of the designer, sustainability challenges and collaboration. While in Delhi, we also visited the Crafts Museum, Nehru Place for textiles and Hauz Khas Village, where we spent over an hour in a very interesting, upmarket designer store called Orgaan. The store sells young designer labels, focusing on contemporising traditional techniques, as well as heavily embellished designer saris.
That weekend, we drove to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal and the next day visited numerous shops including Fab India, an ethical garment and home wares chain store, Anokhi, a brand using traditional block printing, ELF, (Everlasting Fabrics) and Kilol, two boutiques specialising in natural dyes and hand block prints. On the same evening, we arrived at the train station at 5.30pm for our 6.00pm train back to Chennai. However, we had a six-hour wait as the trains were running typically late. We spent the next two days and two nights in cramped quarters reading our books and catching up on sleep!
We came back to Auroville for a day and took the night bus to Pollachi, where we spent the next four days visiting Appachi Cotton, organic cotton farmers and producers and their fashion brand, Ethicus and Kunji Palayam, a small village of traditional hand loom weavers. On our return to Auroville, the students embarked on a bag design project, designing, cutting and sampling a backpack. Two hundred bags screen-printed with the Whitecliffe logo are being made as part of Project Matatika, to be given as gifts to everyone involved in the supply chain on the Material Mind Journey (MMJ). The MMJ takes industry leaders and entrepreneurs from around the world to the farmers, through production to the final product. The students were fortunate enough to have access to certified organic fabrics and industry equipment at Mandala Apparel ethical clothing business based in Pondicherry, to work on the project.
Our last few days were spent enjoying Auroville and revisiting some of the businesses we went to during our first two weeks.