Hope you enjoyed Part 1 of this global fabrics series – lets keep going
When one thinks about wool, it’s easy to think about sheep, but many South American countries have been making their own fabrics of alpaca wool since the Incan era! Alpaca wool can be incredibly soft and the artisan abilities of the Peruvian people shearing, spinning, dying, and weaving alpaca yarn and introducing it to modern fashion – has blended ancient and modern fashions. This short video shows the handmade process that many individuals are creating textiles by hand to this day.
Alternative Apparel, is becoming a big champion for the Made in Peru movement. The idea being that sourcing materials from and manufacturing there, results in high quality products by also keeps the Peruvian fashion/textile industry alive. And have been creating a series of interesting videos documenting the journey
“For more than a decade, Alternative has gone to Peru to source the softest, most luxurious cotton in the world. This year, we sought to deepen our commitment and relationship with our partners in Peru by exploring the culture and heritage from which these rich cotton traditions hail. We documented our experience in a series of “Made in Peru” films, getting to know the artisans who shape these traditions, traversing the land and engaging in experiences and conversations that amounted to a truly unforgettable journey.”
Mexico had a long history of creating their own fabrics and textiles out of natural and local fibers, until the Spanish introduced wool and silk. A majority of Mexican people were still making their own fabrics and clothing up until mechanized looms were introduced during the Mexican Revolution. But because Mexico has a large native population, many have kept their native fabric and textile traditions alive. You see it thrive through embroidery and weaving, like in Otomi fabrics. This Wikipedia article actually has a really in depth review of Mexican textile history.This video is a museum collection of various types of embroidered clothing by indigenous Mexicans, it is beautiful to see the variations.
I love this video about the colorful tenangos embroidery BUT, beware the captions. The English translation was done poorly. Because I speak Spanish I understood what the woman was really saying. The captions are an oversimplified version of her explanation.
The scale of the African textile industry is HUGE, nothing I could completely cover in this post. Each country, and further, every region, has a rich history in creating traditional fabrics for a very long time – with the fabrics and patterns symbolizing many different things, from religions, tribes, social status, gender, and much more. It is also an industry that is threatened by the same globalization that has inundated other countries with cheap manufactured sweatshop goods. Used clothing sent to Africa at super discounted prices is threatening the African textile industry that cannot compete with the cheaply priced goods (both in and outside of their own country). So supporting the array of textiles and fabrics that are coming out of Africa with both African made clothing and brands using African-made fabrics, is ensuring that their traditional textile industry survives. This coalition for African cotton is attempting to ensure the sustainability of the industry within Africa.
I can show you a billion (more) videos about textiles in Africa alone – but I’ll share a few I found very interesting.
A video about fabrics and textiles and textiles from Ghana – most notably known for weaving, Kente cloth, and printing/dying patterns on fabrics.
A very short informational video about Kuba cloth from Congo
Another very short informational video about Mudcloth from Mali – this one is by a woman that sells African textiles out of store in California, but has lots of information regardless.
This video is actually a collection of photographs of a parade showcasing the many fabrics and fashionable styles of clothing that can be made from traditional and local fabrics. If you catch the very end of the video (you’ll have to pause it because the text goes by very fast) You’ll see how even the people of Cameroon are trying to put a big pause on imported second hand clothes that are impacting the textile industry across the country and continent.
Egypt has sustained many levels of making fabrics for a very long time. Where people were making linen fabrics out of flax since the time of the Ancient Egyptians. Here is a link to a great background to the history of fashion from Ancient Egypt. There is also a lot of fine cotton coming out of Egypt – especially to make bedding.
Our every day lives are surrounded by fabric historically originating from these islands, which found the necessity to create clothing that allowed them to survive the temperate climate. This industry is also under threat by global manufacturing that has turned these products that were once always done by hand, into mass manufactured goods from synthetic materials. The climates allows for an ideal environment that lets sheep, their food, but also other plant based textiles to thrive.
The quality of products was heavily guarded for a very long time by patents that prevented people from exporting or releasing the tools to create textiles – which meant that while many people will still using hand looms, people in Britain and other parts of the UK were already using machines to speed up the process but still release a quality product. Wool was the main textile for a very long time, until the mass introduction of cotton. Britain was importing cotton and creating products with it at an incredible level – often overproducing the cotton’s country of origin. Much like we see in China today. Watch this short presentation someone made about the history of wool in Britain.
Liberty of London has cemented itself as a heritage brand of Britain and the UK – whose cotton printed fabrics have been an ever present staple that has invaded the world. I tried to see and make sure that it’s made in Britain, and it seems so. Other writers give caution to buying things made with their fabric from their store and other retailers, which use the fabric but are made in other countries. This video by Liberty shows how they make their beautifully printed fabrics.
This video perfectly illustrates the same issues in the Made in the USA movement, but for made in the UK! They’re going through the same hurdles to keep traditions alive and the industry from being swallowed by the high street.
A great link to read more about British textile history.
Watch this really cool and short video about the history of Tweed coming off this Scottish isle
I couldn’t find any good videos to share about Fair Isle knitting, but as the “isle” part of the name implies, it is a specific knitting technique that was created on one of Scotland’s islands. You can read more about it here.
Tartan, or plaid, fabrics are quintessential fabrics associated with this area. I love what this guy had to say in the video.
Linen fabrics, which are created from yarn made out of flax fibers, was traditionally known to come from Ireland. That is, until they too had their industry taken over by other countries that could produce it cheaper. The only video I could find that really explains anything interesting is this one – it’s a little old, and you really only need to watch the first half, but has some great information.
The French have been making fancy textiles and fabrics for a very long time, hence why Haute Couture still lives there in Paris each year. Also recall that lace is famous for being hand made in France. Jacquard weaving was fine tuned by a french man!
While Haute Couture is not for the every day person, watching how it’s made gives insight into an amazing world of delicate fabrics and craftsmanship that few can hold a candle to.
I used to love catching the Signe Chanel episodes a few years back. They were basically a behind the scenes look into the madness that ensued in the weeks and days leading up to the Haute Couture Chanel shows. You get to see what really happens in the sewing rooms, and the ladies were hilarious too.
I could certainly go on and on, as countries everywhere were always making their own fabrics. Wools from Australia, Canada, or Italy. Patterned fabrics from Scandinavia. Russian cotton and embroidery.
So the story sounds familiar in many different countries right? They make fabrics and dyes for a long time until they get their industry stolen and moved to another country producing it for less, or when consumers are attracted to cheaper products. Now, especially through the internet, we all have the ability to support the native textile industries of countries all over the world by shopping responsibly and being conscious consumers! Shopping Made in the USA is great, but branching out is sometimes necessary. It has taken me so long to put this post together, and I’ve watched every single video around two times to make sure I was posting something appropriate – that I’ve grown to see the whole industry with different eyes.
What I think needs to start happening, is that we need to start pushing companies to show us the faces of the people making our clothes. Show us where the fabric is coming from. Put details on the tag that have real information, instead of just telling me how to wash my garment. Give our clothes sense and meaning. When you learn the history of fabrics, it becomes more than just something to wear. You are wearing someones hard work, you are wearing someones history, weaved thread by thread so that you could make a fashion statement.