In an insightful conversation with Faith Singh, Co-Founder, Anokhi in the beginning of 2017, she shared her challenges and experiences in the initial years of her business by answering few questions:
What was the business environment like, when you first moved here? Specially the textile business.
The business environment was zero, there were no fashion lines, readymade shops, nobody bought readymade clothing, I came in the 60’s so people wore sarees, salwar kameez, lehengas, traditional clothing. If anybody wanted anything they would get it stitched from their tailor. It was a traditional social structure.
When I first came to India, there was a couple who wanted to do a block printed range of clothing and sell them in one of their small boutiques in London. So that got me into this work here. I was able to do their work because they couldn’t manage the traditional setup. I was ready to sit with a tailor and tell him how to give the cuts. Boutique fashion was just starting in the UK in the 1960. So there was high end fashion and there was this rigid sort of fashion thing, for example the length of your skirt was fixed, the type of cuts was fixed.
In the 60’s with coming of the hippies, we started to get individualistic fashion and started to get boutique fashion shops.
So initially you started with clothing and then you forayed into soft furnishings?
The first thing I did was clothing, When John and I started working on Anokhi, because a woman will buy clothing very quickly, whereas she will think twice before spending on home furnishing. She will buy clothing because it’s something she can wear and look good in. By the end of 80’s, the market was flooded with Jaipur looking textiles, so everybody had enough of this kind of clothing
The Indian market or the UK market?
It was the UK market for the Indian looking clothing because we only exported in the beginning
Anokhi – The brand, emotional aspect/connect, business aspect, challenges, numbers
• In the late 60’s, no market for readymade clothes, traditional tailor–made, saris, lehngas, salwar kameez for women were popular, hence the initial foray was into International market.
• Zero experience in business before starting the venture, faced challenges just like any other entrepreneur today.
• No formal training in design or knowledge about Indian handicrafts, techniques, block printing process but the love for fabrics and a vision for this craft was the compelling force.
• Worked closely with artisans and craftsmen, at grass root level, was able to identify that the essence of reviving this craft lied in promoting and encouraging the craftsmen.
• After 2-3 collections, when the craftsmen ran out of designs, Faith Singh herself designed items.
• Simplified the block printing technique keeping the character intact
• How an English woman found her connection to one of the most cherished heritage crafts of Rajasthan.
• Perfect example of how local fashion community can contribute to sustainable development of heritage craft, benefitting craftsmen at the grass root level.
• Anokhi had to make the design ‘desirable’ so that even if block prints are out of trend, the apparel doesn’t lose it demand, ensuring steady stream of employment for the craftsmen.
• You can be modern right from your traditional space.
Setup with an intent to preserve and exhibit the hand block printing techniques in apparels, Anokhi Museum is housed in an ancient restored haveli (mansion), charting the history of wood block printing in India. Restoration of the haveli won the UNSECO award for cultural heritage in 2000.
The Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing aims at addressing the challenges faced by the block printing industry, through education. Also to spread awareness amongst textile specialists and general public, consumers by educating and encouraging the artisans to re-visit and view their craft in an inspirational way.
The museum offers a chance to the several tourists to get a glimpse of the inspiration called block printing, along with the opportunity to savor the grandeur of an ancient Haveli.
The museum was established in the year 2005 with a thoughtful initiative to preserve and conserve the art of traditional hand printed textiles from the celebrated towns of Sanganer and Bagru. Being one of its kind in the world where one can observe the consuming and exhausting method of hand-block printing in entirety, from carving of wooden blocks to transformation of raw fabric into a piece of art