Artisan Culture: Rethinking Sustainability Through Collaborative Exchange between Emerging Australian Designers and Indian Artisans in Fashion and Textiles
Attentiveness to ethical and ecological sustainable practice is building in the garment industry. However, many researchers still consider the garment-making manufacturing system to be ethically and ecologically unsustainable. There are multiple factors contributing to this view, including overconsumption, waste accumulation, poor working conditions, low wages, and health and safety issues. This thesis explores how industry connections between emerging Australian designers and traditional artisans in India can foster new possibilities for ethically sustainable collaborations between Australia and India. Much of the research emanates from a series of curated tours, where Sydney-based tertiary students undertaking undergraduate degrees in fashion and textile design were encouraged to collaborate with individual artisans, ethical manufacturers, and environmentally sustainable producers in Northern India. Simultaneously, Indian textile artisans were encouraged to apply their traditional technical skills to contemporary design, thus enabling new opportunities for these processes to enter the global market. Using a combination of participant observation strategies and semi-structured interviews, this research draws on data collected from students and industry professionals between July 2012 and September 2013. This data was supported by my own experiences as a fashion practitioner working with Indian manufacturers. In this thesis I argue that firsthand experience for students working with artisans, suppliers and ethical manufacturing practices will increase awareness of the complexities of a sustainable fashion future. This research offers a sustainable model of collaborative practice for future generations of emerging designers, which will build a deeper understanding for better ways to source and design. For artisans, the significance of this thesis could be to build an economically sustainable practice considering contemporary design. It suggests ways to engage in ethical and sustainable practices working with Indian artisans. The outcome of this research aims to contribute to a growing field of ethical practice in fashion and textiles.