The silks and cottons, some more precious than the others, will sparkle like a thousand fires at the court of Louis XIV.
A veil of mist fades away as it approaches the coast of Bengal. In the rising dawn, the country of tigers and Maharajas awakes to the call of the Muezzin of Dhaka. In the surrounding affluent villages the rhythmic clackety-clack of the looms already fills the alleys of Jangalbari, Bajitpour and Sonargaon. Caravans slowly roll towards India carrying among their loads trunks of Jamdani, “jewel” cloths for the Mogul Emperor.
The bay of Calcutta welcomes “Colbert” vessels chartered by the Compagnie Francaise des Indes Orientales. The burning piers are frantically busy. The ships holds are being filled with “Muslin” and other finest Bengal fabrics. Within a few months the silks and cottons, some more precious than the others, will sparkle like a thousand fires at the court of Louis XIV. The whole of Europe praises the skill of the weavers of Dhaka and is overawed by the spectacular fabrics they produce.
The decline of the Mogul Empire in the 18th Century gives the opportunity for the East Indian Companies of France, England and Holland to acquire exclusivity in the trade of these precious cloths. Deprived of their patrons, the weavers of Dhaka and its surroundings are forced to submit to imposed economic constraints and are subjected to numerous repressive measures when they refuse to comply. The craftsmen progressively desert their looms. The Industrial revolution which mechanises the textile industry in Europe tolls the knell of the craft industry of rural Bengal as early as the 19th century. The richest area of hand-loom weaving that the world has ever known, begins to slip slowly to certain death.
The revival of handcraft techniques which are non pollutant.
The impoverishment of craft weaving led to the relentless loss of skills belonging to the world’s cultural inheritance. The foundation Popecha was created to fulfil the need for responsible action to salvage these irreplaceable skills through two routes.
- Training with the establishment of pedagogic workshops dedicated to the various crafts of the trade. This concentration of improvement of skills leads to improvement of the quality of products.
- Ensuring Continuity of the craft industry, by re-developing production in the rural areas.
The concentration of the different skills in different places allows for more efficient ‘scattering’ which helps improve productivity.
The revival of handcraft techniques which are non pollutant (hand weaving, vegetable dyes) is an important factor in an ecological economy. The use of “green” competencies, management of renewable resources and development of ‘pool production’ improve the ecological footprint of the industry and benefit the local populations.
The industrialisation of textile manufacture in Bangladesh impacts on the traditional way of life as it leads to the break-up of the family cell because, in order to provide for wife and children, often numerous, the father has to leave his village to seek work in the city. The reintroduction of rural weaving allows, within the scope of the project, for the family to be reunited. We are reminded, everyday, of the extent to which economic activity impacts on children within the Bangladeshi society. The frailty of family structures forces us to pay attention to many problems such as health and schooling. A child is the epitome of the project.
Anne-Laure Pedegert, 35 stylist and designer. Trained as a designer, haute couture at the Lycee Choiseul in Tours before turning to styling. She worked for 12 years in ‘ready-made’ in France and presently manages a workshop creating textiles for children and adults as an associate of the group Flaxen Fashionwear Ltd.
Zahid Kamal, 45 company manager, Master in Management from the University of Dhaka, occupies various posts of responsibility in several textile manufacturing companies in Bangladesh. He is also director of Flaxen Fashionwear Ltd.
Stephane Polya-Somogyi, 48 company manager, trained at Ecole Pilote International d’Art et de Recherche de la ville de Nice. He directed a couture studio in Madagascar specialising in the making of de-luxe, ready-made, hand embroidered garments for children. He moved on to the post of responsibility for logistics in a French company specialising in sportswear, in Mauritius. In 2010 he initiated the Popecha project.
Abdus Shakoor, 64 painter and calligrapher of international repute whose work has won many prizes. The central theme of his work is the traditions of Bengali village life, inspired by the weaving of fine threads into delicate textiles and the clothes that the villagers wear. He holds the chair of Artisanal Industry, Faculty of Fine Art at the University of Dhaka.
Ahmed Belal, 58 comes from a long line of silk weavers, he his the living memory of silk handcraft in Bangladesh. His main interest is sustainable development, researching in particular, with the collaboration of a Canadian team, vegetable dyes for silk. He currently manages Zareen Silk industries, one of the last remaining producers of handcrafted silk cloths.
Each item is made individually and hand stitched.
The expertise of the creative team in the domain of high fashion and their ideas for children’s clothes, gives the opportunity to present a couture collection for infants. The technical challenges of hand woven materials, which are complex and delicate for such small sizes, have been overcome by the fine skills of our artisan dress makers.
Half street urchin, half scallywag, the Popecha trends are of their time, evoking a faded era. The carefree cuts hinted with a timeless perfume. Organic cottons, raw silks, cashmere and merinos mix equally according to the seasons into materials plain or printed, checked or striped. Hand woven, taffetas, zephyrs and various muslins blend softness, freshness and lightness.
The garments are sewn in our own workshop. Each item is made individually and hand stitched. Careful attention is given to each of the stages of manufacture, each garment piece cut individually, put together, and adjusted to ensure comfort for delicate young skin. The placement of bias, buttons and the finishing of the garment is all by hand. The clothes from our collections are many hours in the making.