By Emma Tynan
Hand weaving is an art dating back to the Stone Age, and has been a task mainly carried out by women. Today, the work itself remains largely the same: fabrics are woven on looms using distinct sets of yarns or threads that are interlaced at right angles. In most of the industrialised world, weaving artisans are dying out, due to the increased use of the power loom.
However, demand for hand-made, Fair Trade and sustainable garments is increasing, and pockets of skilled artisans are keeping this ancient craft alive in places like Peru and Northern Thailand, providing a vital financial lifeline to their remote and undeveloped communities. As Mahatma Ghandi once said, “There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness”, so with this in mind, Apoccas was created.
Apoccas, meaning ‘Ancient Power on Cotton, Cashmere and Silk’, is a socially aware luxury fashion and interiors brand specialising in woven scarves, wraps and throws. Its founder, ex-banker Alexandra du Sold, told us how the accessories are intended to enhance general wellbeing through the incorporation of colour, crystals and words hand-woven onto organically dyed fabrics. “Each piece has a predominant colour theme. Based on that, they have small semi-precious colour–coordinated stones knotted into the fringe and a powerful mantra embroidered onto the scarf or plaid”, said du Sold.
The hand woven textiles are created on a loom by master weavers and Buddhist nuns from eleven villages in northern Thailand; a tradition passed down from generation to generation. Apoccas works with the artisans to ensure that their skills are preserved, and by implementing fair trade practises they are able to support their families and community. “I cannot but be amazed by the hidden weaving talents in the depths of Isaan, tucked away neatly into spectacular landscapes where real quality of life still exists,” said Du Sold about one of her recent visits to the region “Here, family still matters, and community life is sacred.”
Apoccas is also concerned about the environment: “We use botanical dyes to stop chemicals polluting our drinking water. It’s a huge part of our brand philosophy. The same goes for our preferred use of natural yarn materials without chemicals to ensure biodegradability. Even our embroidery yarns are made from Supima cotton with botanical dyes (and not rayon as is used in most embroidery yarns)”, said Du Sold.
Apoccas has ensured that everything within their supply chain is as ethical and sustainable as possible, even down to the packaging, which is made from Saa paper, derived from the Mulberry tree. The leaves feed the Mulberry silk worms for silk production. “The Saa paper industry alone generates employment for nearly 30,000 Thai people who would otherwise struggle to feed their families”, Alexandra told us.
A significant percentage of the company’s profits are to be reinvested in select rural community projects to help foster traditional craftsmanship, especially of the master weavers. “It’s my way to sow the seeds for their empowerment, for their independence, their livelihood” said Du Sold.
In other words, its a way for them to weave their dreams.
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