into the blue
Our Indigo Shibori Collection
Our indigo shibori collection comes from a cooperative in Northern Bangladesh, which makes textiles using locally grown botanical indigo and a unique combination of Bengali stitching, known as kantha, and a resist dyeing technique called shibori. Shibori is a Japanese term, but it refers to a dyeing technique that can be found in various parts of the world. This combination of local and global design techniques along with the brilliant blue of the natural indigo makes these Bangladeshi textiles truly unique.
What is botanical indigo?
Botanical indigo is a deep blue dye that comes from the indigofera plant. It has a long history of cultivation in the Bengal region. Indigo was once known as the king of dyes and global demand made Bengal one of the richest areas in the world. In the 1800s, however, the British colonial powers turned huge areas of Bangladesh into indigo plantations and local inhabitants were exploited for their labour. Because of this history, indigo has become a symbol of colonial exploitation in Bangladesh, and with the development of synthetic indigo, this special plant has fallen out of favour. The cooperative we are working with, however, is rediscovering the benefits of botanical indigo, and is exploring how it can become again the pride of Bangladesh.
What are the benefits?
As well as providing a beautiful dye, indigo has an array of social and ecological benefits. It acts as a soil enricher by taking nitrogen from the atmosphere and putting it into the ground, increasing the soil's fertility. After harvesting, its stems can be used as firewood. It is a hardy plant that grows easily on dry land and requires no fertiliser. It is thus perfect for people living in the dry Northern part of Bangladesh, many of whom are landless and are not able to afford chemical inputs for their crops. The cooperative we are working with grows the plant along the unused sides of roads. The cooperative consists of separate social enterprises that each focus on a different aspect of production, such as indigo plant cultivation, stitching or dyeing. Each social enterprise is democratically managed by its members, who also have full control over profits.