Friday, 27 April 2012

India - Day 5 - Jaipur

Jaipur – Anokhi and Block printing factories

Today is Arts and Handicrafts day – a day tailored around developing our knowledge of local printing techniques and manufacturing, in a bid to incorporate and embrace some of these skills in my upcoming collection.

We begin at the Anokhi Factory on the outskirts of Jaipur. An experience organized by Vicky Singh, the sister of one of mum’s friends who had put the whole itinerary together for our entire trip, including personal touches like this one. Anokhi was set up by Faith, a friend of Vicky’s so we very lucky to be able to see inside the hive of creative activity. 


Set on a self-sustaining farm, the Anokhi organization employs over 300 local people as well as using local villages for their bulk production of printing and manufacturing. All the detailing, quality control, pattern cutting, sampling, designing and packaging is done in house and there is an everlasting snake of rooms that take you from one skill set to another. Each room is decorated with endless rolls of printed fabric, which in turn are set off by the exquisite saris of the women who cut, sew and print them.


Their eco friendly, employee supporting, meticulous set-up is frankly inspirational and leaves me with a desire to set up camp in India and work with these hugely talented communities myself – maybe one day.


Following a delicious Indian tapas style lunch with Rachel, the current creative director we headed back to Jaipur with Vicky and Kan Singh to our next stop – a block-printing factory in the old part of the city.


Now you couldn’t create a stronger contrast in premises if you tried harder. The sanctuary of Anokhi was a world away from the carnage of the Old Town and through Vicky’s local knowledge and fluent Hindi tongue we eventually managed to find the spot. Located on the 3rd floor of a derelict / under construction building, this “established” printing house hosted 12 x 5 meter tables, which lived precariously under crumbling roofs, propped up by tree trunks. 

Dozens of shelves teaming with colorful fabric dye and inks and their wooden printing block companions lined the walls and finished lengths of fabric hung from and over every post, hook and spare table. It created a scene of astonishing, unexpected, yet contradicting beauty.

The house literally looked like a bomb had come through the middle the day before and the workers had not even batted an eyelid and just carried on with their tasks for the day. This raw, unfinished edifice was the creative epicenter of some of Jaipur’s most exquisite fabrics. 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A documentary of India - Day 1

A hop skip and a jump from London and we arrive in New Delhi International Airport, 11am.

Unsurprisingly, having escaped from hibernating through the English summer our first meet and greet is with the rather prolific Indian climate – 5 degrees in London to 40 in Delhi resulted in the dramatic loss of layers and dare I say it, a glossy film over our excited and expectant faces.

 And so the adventure began……

People have been known to brand India “ An assault on all the senses”. Well I guess I have to agree but “assault” seems to me a bit negative and these intense encounters are what is essentially the essence of India. Its beauty and its blemishes side by side, on top of each other and merging unforgivingly into one.

 Our love affair with this sensory overload began immediately, as soon as we hit the road in fact. We had been picked up by our hotel driver and began the 45-minute drive into Delhi. Our first experience of driving in India can only be described as a rollercoaster on tracks that randomly crossed, hit and weaved around, over and through each other. 

This coupled with the incessant blowing of horns and bizarre traffic regulation that allows cars pulling on to roundabouts right of way and trust me they do not even pause to look at the herd of trucks coming from their right. It’s a head down charge into the circle of doom at top speed, prompting current brave roundabout participants to slam on, whilst narrowly missing 5 car bumpers, 12 tuk tuks and 37 bicycles.


After checking in at our hotel, the lovely Ahuja Residency in Golf Links, we headed out into Delhi. Markets were our first priority and with mum gripped to my arm we delved in. Markets in India are a bit like driving, only with people and being fair skinned we attracted the human traffic from our first step. The intensely colorful stalls and street sellers were championed by enthusiastic, at times personal space invading locals. From quilts, jewelry and artifacts to books, flowers and leather goods.

Food stalls filled the air with mouth and eye watering spices and fought against the pungent yet ever presence aroma of waste and filth that we walked around and over. Smiling yet desperate faces at every turn and even the slightest bit of interest from our part created a frenzy of “good price” offers and “special” deals. We came away with a pair of floral trousers and 2 copies of Shantaram – overpriced, but for our first encounter we were happy and satisfied with our lesson in Indian haggling.

To further increase the contrast of Indian worlds we headed to the Imperial Hotel to meet Roger, a friend of my brothers. The Imperial is one of Delhi’s gems and considered to be the most elite. Whilst providing an alternative and unrealistic view on Indian life it was thoroughly breathtaking. We sipped cocktails in plush gardens with every whim attended to at brake neck speed. Nibbles and chitchat complemented the sanctuary, heightening the diversity of culture as we passed through the gates and returned to the road and reality. Not for the first time in 12 hours, mum and I took a pause to acknowledge how lucky we were and the extent of the poverty in India that sprawls and encompasses every city, village and colony nationwide. For our drinks bill we could provide food for one family for months. 

A taste of India

So last month i took the long awaiting trip to Rajasthan in India with my mama. Here are a few highlights of our trip which will be inspiring SS13 in due course!

Delhi Market

Ma's attempt at Indian dancing

The INCREDIBLE Fatehpur Sikri 

Dinner at our drivers house - the legendary Kan Singh. I was whisked off first and dressed up in full sari gear. Mum pretty much spat her vegetable curry on me with uncontrolled laughter. Little did she know her pink number was awaiting her in the other room :-)

A block printing factory

Bargaining for printing blocks in Jaipur

Rural Rajasthan - check out the little goats in the sack on the donkeys. ahhhhh.

Smoking in literally the middle of no-where. Afternoon gossip and a pipe. Tick.

Rajasthan palaces are so ornate, its breathtaking.

Meeting the entrepreneurial family who run 80 looms in a tiny village in south Rajasthan weaving fabric with gold in it!

Weavers at work

Gorgeous girlies

The dinner table at a palace we stayed at and NO you are NOT allowed to swim down the middle after your meal. Damn it.

In the Mahajaras Car museum. A converted Elephant stable that hosts 40 cars, planes and a state of the art bar with a centre stage that raises up 15ft at your request. Slightly random and also unexpected on our part mid cocktail.

India you have stolen my heart. I will be return at my earliest opportunity x