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India's heritage - kalamkari

Posted on 09 May 2019

India has been the birthplace of numerous art forms over the centuries, with families passing down their in-depth knowledge and years of experience from generation to generation, creating entire families of highly skilled artisans. 

However these ancient art forms are under threat, with manufacturers compromising on the quality of the materials in favour of cheaper synthetic alternatives, alongside the dwindling interest of the younger generations to carry on the traditions and crafts of their forefathers.

In an age where the machine is favoured over the hand and manufacturers are under immense pressure to meet deadlines and price points in order to win contracts over their competitors, handcrafting is falling out of fashion - fast.

At the Stiff Collar we are making a conscious effort to honour the skill and effort of the craftspeople of India, by using a range of handmade fabrics in our shirts. We strongly believe that the quality and beauty of a fabric which has been designed and produced by hand cannot be replicated by a machine - no matter how sophisticated.

One type of textile which we have a particular interest in at The Stiff Collar is Kalamkari fabric. Kalamkari literally meaning ‘drawings with a pen’, Kalamkari is of two types in India: Machilipatnam, which originates from Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Srikalahasti, which originates from Chitoor in the same state. While the former refers to block-printed form of art, the latter is a free flowing art with a pen on fabric. Today, Kalamkari art is used on sarees and ethnic clothing, and depicts anything from flora and fauna to epics such as Mahabharata or Ramayana.

Tapestry - India's heritage - kalamkari

Kalamkari fabrics tend to feature more earthy tones; reds, oranges, browns and blues - this is due to the use of vegetable dyes in the production of the fabrics. Not only is this better for the environment as chemicals are not being flushed out into water bodies but it is also a more sustainable method of production. 

These days textile markets across India are flooded with imitation Kalamkari fabrics. Produced using chemical dyes and screen printing methods, the manufacturers of these products have abandoned the authentic methods of production - replacing the laborious and time consuming carving of wooden blocks for faster and crisper screen printing methods. These fabrics are popular amongst consumers as they’re able to buy ‘Kalamkari style’ fabrics for a quarter of the price and only the discerning eye can spot the difference. With the growing market for such products, life will become increasingly diffiicult for the artisans striving to keep the traditional methods alive.

Image result for kalamkari PRODUCTION

You’ll find our Kalamkari products on the webiste available in a number of different styles such as Nehru collar and Regular collar and in a variety of colours too. These shirts are quality tested to The Stiff Collars exacting high standards but should still be handled with a little care due to the nature of the textiles. 

Clothing - India's heritage - kalamkari

Shop our latest Kalamkari products online at:

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