Didi Textiles is an initiative promoted by designer Veronika Lena Lang – master tailor of the pieces –, and architect Anna Heringer, and is carried out in cooperation with the Bangladeshi development organization Dipshikha. The clothes from Didi Textiles are made in two villages in the North of Bangladesh. They are tailored by hand and sewn following the local textile traditions. Aiming at an improved quality of life, the process is as important as the product.
Made in Bangladesh
4.2 million people, women in particular, live from the fabrication of textiles in Bangladesh. The objective of the textile sector merely is to achieve the global standards regarding quality and labor conditions, or in other words, to cheaply produce a perfect standardized t-shirt in safe working conditions. But the wonderful textile arts and cultures that Bangladesh has are not considered, nor are the global technological developments, that with great probability will replace manual labor in ten to fifteen years. This project is a Bangladeshi-German cooperation between crafts(wo)men and designers together with a Bangladeshi NGO for village development. It comes to prove the possibility of an alternative “made in Bangladesh” production: participative, sustainable, decentralized, based on the local textile traditions, and with the purpose of improving the quality of life. _x005F_x000D_
In rural Bangladesh a woman gets one sari per year from her family on the occasion of the main Muslim or Hindu festival. When the saris are worn out, they are traditionally recycled into blankets: about six layers of those cotton saris are fixed together with hundreds of stitches made by hand by the women of the village. The name of the project stems from this history: “didi” means “sister” in Bangla. Over the years with everyday use, the surface layers of the blankets peel off and the hidden layers appear. The vibrant and incredible colorful textured surface is an imprint of the blankets’ own little family cosmos, documenting the traces of the family’s history. When the blankets are almost torn, our project begins: the blankets are handcrafted by women in and around the village of Rudrapur, and turned into contemporary designed clothes._x005F_x000D_
_x005F_x000D_ The old sari blankets that form the raw material of our collection are gathered by bike or with a rickshaw and are hand-washed with an ecological washing powder. The water used is heated with solar collectors. The entire production runs without electricity, using feet-driven sewing machines that are commonly spread in the villages of Bangladesh. In addition, this process requires a good share of manual work like stitching. The project consciously abstains from synthetic materials. Every step in the labor process, like the supply of materials, the cutting, the manufacturing and the final control is local. Only the bike is used for transportation. The only pollution caused is that of the shipment to Germany._x005F_x000D_ The individuality of the clothes is so unique that they will not follow a short term fashion trend. Thereby the pieces will be worn over a long span of years rather than the usual fashion period of weeks. The transparence of the production as well as the emotional relationship to the process will replace the identification with the iconic brand.
The majority of Bangladeshis live in villages. While in cities the consumption gains more importance, villages can produce a large share of their daily needs themselves. With this day-to-day creativity and culture the villages prove to be important culture carriers. Thanks to this economical subsistence their ecological footprint is smaller than in the cities, but they lack paid job opportunities.
_x005F_x000D_ The outcome of this project is a spatial and urban intervention. The garment sector is dragging labor forces from the villages all around the country to the urban centers, mainly to the capital Dhaka. There, the textile workers, most of them women, end up living in inhumane conditions for which they often have to pay a high price. A decentralized manufacturing process directly in the villages can dam up the continuing migration from rural to urban areas. It also enhances a more equally distributed economic and infrastructural development all over the country._x005F_x000D_ By setting up this project, women can stay with their families in their villages, in the vicinity of their social network, being able to do their work in their own homes or in a community space where they don`t have to pay for water or sanitation. They get a fair salary and their kids can play with marbles and goats in a healthy environment._x005F_x000D_ _x005F_x000D_
Out of the Ordinary
The continuation of this unique textile culture will be facilitated by the appreciation that will be revived through Didi Textiles. For us in the industrialized countries these textiles can become an inspiration and motivation towards the art of recycling, as well as serving to strengthen the sensibility to discover the beauty in the used and ordinary._x005F_x000D_