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LIVING BLUE BANGLADESH

Living Blue is a 49%-51% partnership endeavour between Nijera Cottage Industries and Care Bangladesh that is contemporising the ancient crafts of Kheta stitch and Indigo dyeing and in turn empowering the crafts-people and communities.

THE KHETA OR KANTHA

A Kheta is a quilt wherein old and stray fabrics are layered and hand-sewed together in a running stitch. Practiced by women; the act of bringing needle to fabric, piercing and emerging rhythmically, leaves behind a colourful trail of thread on worn-out and faded fabric.

INDUCTING INDIGO INTO MAINSTREAM PRODUCTION

The initiative started with the cultivation of Indigo. A deep blue dye (neel) is derived from the Indigo plant and used to render fabrics a dark blue hue. Bangladeshi neel is believed to be one of the finest in the world. The Khetas are dyed with indigo for production and exported globally.

COLLABORATIONS

While Living Blue is focussed on high-quality luxury production, it collaborates with global designers for creative inputs. While they welcome innovations, the practice and techniques are devised keeping in mind the local expertise and comfort.

INTERNATIONAL FOLK ART MARKET, SANTA FE, 2015

The International Folk Art Market celebrates the humanity of the handmade that empowers communities through monumental earnings. Living Blue products at the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe in 2015 exhibited Shibori quilts of master quilter Aroti Rani from Goalpara, Bangladesh apart from decor accessories, stole and scarves.

Living Blue at Milan Design Week, April 2017

A quilted World Map by Living Blue for Narrative Made. It was presented at the Milan Design Week in April 2017.Milan Design Week 2017

NUMERÓ 4 COLLECTION WITH ANAS GUERY

Parisian fashion designer Anais Guery spent two weeks with Living Blue’s artisans and dyers. She created a blend of textiles as part of her Numeró 4 collection.

LIVING BLUE X NATASCHA VON HIRSCHHAUSEN

Living Blue partnered with Natascha von Hirschhausen to launch a collection of handcrafted outfits for a Kickstarter campaign. They successfully raised €1,641 with 19 backers.

LIVING BLUE X GALERIES LAFAYETTE – SPRING 2016

The collection was officially launched on April 7, 2016, in Haussmann Galeries Lafayette ‘femme’, in Paris, by CARE France president Baroness Arielle de Rothschild and Galeries Lafayette CEO Philippe Houze.

LIVING BLUE IN BRIGITTE

A Living Blue silk indigo shibori scarf is used as a turban, in a photoshoot titled ‘Spirit of Africa’ for Brigitte, a German magazine.

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Lab 04 Dec 2017

Tales of Indigo: Indigo paves way to empower communities and create livelihoods under Living Blue

The women of Bengal are born with fingers that spin poetry. Each of their 5 fingers possesses different characteristics, strengths and weaknesses; each hand embodies inimitable artistries. Multiplied by the number of skilled artisans and craftspeople, craft clusters can weave wonders. Established in 2008 in Rajendrapur, Living Blue is a brand of textiles produced by Nijera Cottage Industries in partnership with CARE, Bangladesh. It harnesses the skill of its people to create livelihoods and entrepreneurs amidst them. Their forte is Indigo dye production, import and application in Bengal handloom textile of Kantha quilts (locally known as ‘kheta’). Kheta has entered the global fashion industry in the form of scarves, stoles, blouses and dresses; and décor furnishings owing to the endeavours of Living Blue.

A kheta is a quilt wherein old saris, dhotis and lungis ((traditional men’s attire, a long fabric wrapped around the waist) and stray fabrics are layered and hand-sewn together in a running stitch. Practiced by women, the act of bringing needle to fabric, piercing and emerging rhythmically, leaves behind a colourful trail of thread on worn-out and faded fabric. It takes three to six months for a quilt to be completed. These khetas showcase a distinct ‘dheu’ (wave or a surge in Bangla dialect). The dheu is formed as fabric layers compress and wrinkle due to the pressure of the thread stitched across it. The resultant texture is the soft caress of pre-loved fabrics that have seen a life of love, tears, toil and joy. Intricate stitch patterns like straight-stitch, triangles, cuboid, diamond and those inspired from nature like peacock feathers, flowers, etc. are seen on the quilts. The designs were the prerogative of the maker who mostly followed her instinct. Bengalis (people who speak Bangla) believe that each kheta encompasses life. 

LIVING BLUE BANGLADESH

Living Blue is a 49%-51% partnership endeavour between Nijera Cottage Industries and Care Bangladesh that is contemporising the ancient crafts of Kheta stitch and Indigo dyeing and in turn empowering the crafts-people and communities.

When Indigo saw red: The revolt of 1859

Living Blue was started with the intent to not only carry forth the craft but also render it relevant to contemporary times and needs. However the initiative started with the cultivation of Indigo. A deep blue dye, known as neel is derived from the Indigo plant and used to render fabrics a dark blue hue. Bangladeshi neel is believed to be one of the finest in the world. But Indigo is said to have a blood-stained history in the Indian Sub-continent. ‘The Indigo revolt of 1859’ was a consequence of British forcing farmers to grow only indigo and sell it at a pittance. The British succumbed to their demands post an aftermath of blood, torture and destruction. Indigo became taboo and its cultivation declined.

New beginnings to deep-rooted crafts

Living Blue restarted indigo cultivation and spread awareness about the same. The next logical step entailed escalating the dye and fabric to a global platform. Kheta was viable and available. The over-dyed kheta revisits embroidery not as ornamentation but textural underplay. The finished khetas are over-dyed in Indigo. As Indigo fades over time, the stitch may reveal itself to create a prominent pattern. 

THE KHETA OR KANTHA

A Kheta is a quilt wherein old and stray fabrics are layered and hand-sewed together in a running stitch. Practiced by women; the act of bringing needle to fabric, piercing and emerging rhythmically, leaves behind a colourful trail of thread on worn-out and faded fabric.

 
INDUCTING INDIGO INTO MAINSTREAM PRODUCTION

The initiative started with the cultivation of Indigo. A deep blue dye (neel) is derived from the Indigo plant and used to render fabrics a dark blue hue. Bangladeshi neel is believed to be one of the finest in the world. The Khetas are dyed with indigo for production and exported globally.

“The designs were the prerogative of the maker who mostly followed her instinct. Bengalis (people who speak Bangla) believe that each kheta encompasses life.”

They explored various regions to understand  the traditions, techniques, designs and motifs. Craftspeople were identified and their strengths were investigated. Post workshops and visits to museums; they were trained to achieve mastery over their strengths and with the help of global designers and establishments they created textiles to suit the current markets. The emphasis is on high-quality production and technique. 

‘Nui Shibori’

Designer Tushar Kumar from India introduced them to ‘Nui Shibori’ a Japanese resist-dyeing technique. ‘Resist-dyeing’ entails manipulating or constricting a fabric so that, when it is dyed, it resists colour and restricts it from spreading evenly on the fabric. A pattern is thus formed. Nui Shibori involves straight-stitching a fabric and pulling the threads. The fabric is pulled inwards and tied up. It is dipped in dye and allowed to dry. The threads are unwoven to reveal patterns. The locals were at ease with Shibori given their expertise with the needle and deployed the technique in their fabrics.  Shibori’s wave like appearance coupled with the rippled dheu effect gave the fabric an accentuated 3-dimensional profile. 

COLLABORATIONS

While Living Blue is focussed on high-quality luxury production, it collaborates with global designers for creative inputs. While they welcome innovations, the practice and techniques are devised keeping in mind the local expertise and comfort.

 
INTERNATIONAL FOLK ART MARKET, SANTA FE, 2015

The International Folk Art Market celebrates the humanity of the handmade that empowers communities through monumental earnings. Living Blue products at the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe in 2015 exhibited Shibori quilts of master quilter Aroti Rani from Goalpara, Bangladesh apart from decor accessories, stole and scarves.

 
Living Blue at Milan Design Week, April 2017

A quilted World Map by Living Blue for Narrative Made. It was presented at the Milan Design Week in April 2017.Milan Design Week 2017

Further collaborations

In 2015, French fashion designer Anais Guery spent two weeks with Living Blue and created a line of textiles. In 2016 Galeries Lafayette had partnered with Living Blue and released a range of clothing and décor accessories to promote sustainable and responsible fashion. Their other global partners include Calico-Japan, Sally Campbell – Australia and Narrative Made – Hong Kong. They promote Living Blue through their channels and portals. 

NUMERÓ 4 COLLECTION WITH ANAS GUERY

Parisian fashion designer Anais Guery spent two weeks with Living Blue’s artisans and dyers. She created a blend of textiles as part of her Numeró 4 collection.

 
LIVING BLUE X NATASCHA VON HIRSCHHAUSEN

Living Blue partnered with Natascha von Hirschhausen to launch a collection of handcrafted outfits for a Kickstarter campaign. They successfully raised €1,641 with 19 backers.

Quoting The Care Publication - Living Blue Best of Bangladesh, “Living Blue is an attempt to learn from history.” In retrospection, the initiative is attempting to unlearn its history. From bloodied indigo to communities steeped in poverty, Living Blue has reversed many adversities. 

LIVING BLUE X GALERIES LAFAYETTE – SPRING 2016

The collection was officially launched on April 7, 2016, in Haussmann Galeries Lafayette ‘femme’, in Paris, by CARE France president Baroness Arielle de Rothschild and Galeries Lafayette CEO Philippe Houze.

 
LIVING BLUE IN BRIGITTE

A Living Blue silk indigo shibori scarf is used as a turban, in a photoshoot titled ‘Spirit of Africa’ for Brigitte, a German magazine.

Living Blue is making waves in textile crafts by the day. Visit here to stay abreast of latest happenings.