If clothes were stories, Indian women would be the best storytellers. For a long time, I was a true believer of monochrome: the less color, the better. But the power of color changed me when I visited India three years ago – the bright pinks, reds, yellows and indigo blues made me feel at home. Since then, I have been fascinated and inspired by India’s fabrics, their styles of dress, and their sheer openness to experiment with a full palette of colors.
Recently, I embarked on a journey to the cities in Jaipur and Hyderabad with MATTER’s creative director Hanna Hillilä. I learnt a great deal about the stories embedded into MATTER’s products – they exemplify the hybridity of traditional Asian craft with contemporary designs, and do so by working in a collaborative process merging traditional skills and global creative forces. Most striking of all is MATTER’s commitment to eco-friendly and sustainable fashion and their refusal to sacrifice ethical labor practices for cool style.
MATTER is a great storyteller of Indian fabrics because the brand takes interest in the lives of the people who create their collections. During the trip, we visited MATTER’s artisan partners and their families: we worked in their studios, ate homemade foods cooked by wives and mothers, and played with their children. I visited Khushiram, their fifth generation blockprinter, to see how the fabrics are produced in his factory, and spent time with his family. Getting to know the people behind every garment helped me see the beauty of the process. It was our visits to the local families that made me realize how color is intrinsically interwoven into the lives of Indian culture and society. Living as they do, colors matter.
Lijie is an art historian and cultural entrepreneur based in Beijing. She worked with a number of leading cultural organizations in the UK and China. Her most recent project is working on a platform promotes Asian textiles and artisans to global markets.