Bringing Pakistan’s textile arts to market
Recently, during a 10-day journey discovering Pakistan and its handmade products, we were warmly welcomed everywhere and discovered a rich and refined culture, far from the violence and hatred displayed on global media. We also learned about the Pakistani NGO Indus Heritage Trust (IHT) in Islamabad that has created an intriguing idea: “Artisans are Pakistan’s Ambassador to the World”
Pakistani handcrafted textiles claim their own unique space in the global arena. Indus Heritage Trust is a Pakistani NGO located in Islamabad with the mission to bring work to women in rural areas and to preserve the traditional skill of embroidery. The overall strategy is to focus on differentiation from other South Asian textiles. To follow this plan, the first introduction to the marketplace will emphasize neutral color palette, understated design and embellishment.
IHT has identified up to 16 different hand stitched textiles that are made in the rural areas villages. This tradition is still handed down from older women to their daughters and granddaughters, but the work needs to be recognized, appreciated and fairly paid before it becomes a lost art. Today middlemen underpay most of the work and many artisans are ready to give up and seek better paying work opportunities. One solution is to open international markets to preserve these traditional and generational handmade products.
Much has been accomplished by IHT in organizing artisan groups, identifying “Jugnus” (leaders, or “sparks”), training artisans in quality production and quantifying the value of their labor. They also have introduced work paid by direct banking through telephone and smartphone banking applications. The rural women are taught the best and user-friendly of new technologies!
Although the beauty and cultural significance of the embroidery is present, woven textiles that are currently available in Pakistan need to be further developed. New woven textiles using natural fiber combinations of linen, hemp, silk and cotton together with natural dyeing methods along with the fantastic embroidery skills will be key to its success.
Different designers from US and Europe as well as Indian are working in creating new products that will be exhibited at the upcoming NY NOW trade show in August, later followed by another exhibition at NY NOW’s 2017 winter show. The new Pakistani textiles will be marketed as a combination of fabric and embroidery, from the best of 2,400 women artisans met in the villages.