Making

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

An open letter to our community with an update on the #MATTERxMIAKODA range:

MATTER began with an instinct to bring the beauty of fabric stories to life in a way that was accessible, relatable, and desirable. Stepping into a universe of heritage printing and weaving looms, we quickly fell in love with traditional textiles. The value of craft is in its making, and the more we understood that verity, the more we loved the process. From the perfect imperfection of human error, to the incorporation of natural time cycles of printing and weaving, taking into account the serendipities of weather, festivities, and harvest cycles. However, our love story with these traditional methods hasn’t always been a smooth journey. Often we’re faced with consistency issues in the printing, the added cost of an enzyme wash post-production (to remove any leftover ink, especially during monsoon season), or having a few meters of fabric that we have no choice but to reject.

This time around, riding on our newfound love of natural dye, we decided to take on two artisan techniques in one go: natural dye and hand stamped batik. A little context before we delve into this: We imagined the collection to be made with batik – a traditional technique that is widely spread on our side of the globe, complimented with natural dye, a brand new print that we designed – all to be hand stamped on a material we were excited to work with for the first time: organic cotton spandex.

If that read like a run-on sentence, it’s probably because it was. Here it is again in short: we dreamed big, and this range was an amalgamation of 4 elements – natural dye, a new print, hand stamped batik, and a material we’ve never worked with before. It was a coming of old and new loves, and it was an admirable idea but as is common of new processes done the first time around, unexpected hiccups tend to occur.

Let’s start with the motif. The Avarta print was inspired by the window grills we saw in Jaipur, an outline of a crescent moon. When we took the design with us to Ahmedabad, we knew the intricate lines added a new level of difficulty. Instead of a perpendicular alignment, we imagined the motif itself to be slanted on its edge with its lines parallel to each other – a detail that required precision and patience. We spent an entire afternoon under the sun with our artisan partners, experimenting between hand drawn, stencil, and hand blocked motifs to see which would yield the best results.

Now onto the color. We spent a few extra weeks trying to perfect the color: a marry of blush and brown. Using a combination of fermented iron, pomegranate peel, and common madder – it was through a trial and error process that we finally came upon a shade that best resembled what we had in mind. This process, though tumultuous and time consuming, is in large why we love natural dye.

What might otherwise be an industrial defect to some, has become a detail we empathise with.

 

So we pushed back the launch date of our newest range and trusted that it would turn out for the better. The goal was to iron out all the kinks in sampling so that the production could go smoothly.

A few weeks ago, the bulk of the products arrived in our office and we were confronted with a dilemma. The prints were translucent and faded, the colours were inconsistent throughout, and we knew we couldn’t launch the products as they were. Then came the impending question: what do we do now? We didn’t want these products to go to waste, as it wouldn’t be ethical or sustainable – two pillar values that both our brands stand upon.

So we tried to salvage them. Playing around with new ideas such as block printing on the already printed garments, putting them through several rounds of enzyme wash to remove some of the stain, and even adding a natural indigo dye over top to create a new colourway. But all of these attempts fell short of what we initially designed and created with so much love. We felt that we exhausted our options with these garments and instead of salvaging them with unnecessary chemicals, we will recycle the fabric and fibers to be processed and knitted for future garments.

With that, we went back to the drawing board.

Along with our artisan partners, we revisited the dyeing process: changing up the castor oil with coconut oil, replacing pomegranate peel in the dye to myrobalan, while still using the original fermented iron that has been brewing for the last 2 months. It turns out that this new combination delivered a sharper colour and a clearer motif – true to the way we imagined this range to be when we began this collaboration. It was an unexpected (yet welcomed) surprise that would only have happened because of the time we took to contemplate on the issue.

Everything that went wrong (and right) led us here and it was a confluence of timing and circumstance.

 

From the first production run going wrong, to having an extra pot of fermented iron, and the despondency from such a passionate collaboration that rallied everyone’s persistence to figure out a solution. Without which, we may never have found the secret to natural dyed and hand stamped batik organic cotton spandex fabric (try saying that three times fast).

As we write this, the new production is being made at our partner’s factory in India. Our MATTERxMIAKODA Robe has been well loved by many of you, so please stay tuned for the Bralette and Bodysuit to be released in the upcoming months. We are so excited to be able to share these pieces with you soon, and appreciate all of your patience and excitement with us on this journey.


We’ll be sharing updates along the way so if you want all the details, sign up for our mailing list here.