IOU Project Revindicates the Real Madras Weavers

I believe that giving exposure to efforts to include traditional and sustainable jobs and authentic hand made materials in our synthetic and transient world. Cotton is one of the most durable and eco-friendly materials when processed in traditional ways and the women that weave this cloth are in  need of our support. When I was recently in a small market in Kigali, Rwanda amongst all the locally produced foods and spices, I was taken aback that all the “traditional’ fabrics that the women make their clothes from on old treadle sowing machines has all been produced in China by “traditional” processes.

This report by Kate Black on URBANTIMES

In the struggle for independence, Ghandi encouraged people to take to their looms to stop the practice of Indian cotton being sent to Britain for milling and re-sold back to India. This sparked a cottage industry, that today includes over 20 million families who depend on hand loom weaving. They can weave as much as 50 million meters of cloth a day, 250 million meters a week, 1 billion meters of cloth a month. All while using minimal energy and locally grown, natural cotton; making them the world’s most environmentally friendly textile manufacturers.

The IOU Project, the brainchild of designer Kavita Parma, combines this fabric with European tailors to create a modern, hip, easy-to-wear sportswear line that’s traceable, transparent, authentic and unique.

Parma, a designer, entrepreneur and global citizen, born in India but has also lived in the U.K., Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, the U.S. and Spain, wanted to be involved in product development using traditional artisan skills.

“I started IOU out of sheer frustration,” Parma tells us, “with the current fashion system which was a race to the bottom about producing cheaper and faster, where quality and authenticity were the first victims of keeping up with the latest short lived trend in this voracious cycle of consumption we were feeding into.”

Parma wanted to “decommoditize fashion and return the conversation back to value instead of price.”

The IOU project is more than mere fashion, but a social movement meant to promoteresponsible consumption by disrupting and transforming existing supply chains into prosperity chains.

Madras is the perfect fabric to start that chain reaction. “There is over 1 billion or more dollars worth of Madras checks (named as such) sold in the market by major brands and none of it comes from the real madras weavers and most of it is not even made in India,” explains Parma.

To revindicate the Real Madras Weavers, Parma chose a co-operative where over 250,000 families have been weaving the traditional Madras checks, by hand, for  centuries and then layers transparency and traceability, to create an emotional link between consumer and creator.

“The IOU Project was born from the need to empower both the artisan and the consumer,” states Parma.

She then went on to remind us that fashion has always reflected the social issues of the times from the corset-free silhouette of the 20’s flapper dresses to the mini skirt.

And as consumers become more aware of the scarcity of resources and the environmental threats our planet faces, not to mention the social inequalities that exist, we are drawn to “products of not only high quality and long lasting aesthetic but products of lasting value with an authentic story, one that makes them feel good and resonates emotionally with their beliefs.”

The collection of sporty separates for men and women includes unisex scarves, bags and espadrilles.

 

Urban Public Space – An Open Invitation to Contribute

This is an  invite  to readers to contribute to this blog,   any post that has to do with the urban public domain, especially if it can be situated in the actual physical pubic space of the city, any city is welcome.

I have been slack this month but have been thinking how to take the blog from re- posting generalized articles on the urban  to  original posts that deal with  issues of how politics, governance and business, especially retail property development,  impact on public space within the urban environment and  how these are shaped by the different “cultural” groups that make up these ‘publics’.

In the Southern Theory frameworks there is  interest in how the poor are disenfranchised by  manipulations of the public sphere to advantage those with power or money.

The media often play a key role in how these disenfranchised and marginalized people are viewed and treated by the authorities and power groups.

An example in Cape Town is how the City Improvement Districts e.g. Central City Improvement District  (CCID),  which is a partnership between the City of Cape Town and local business interests, in terms of which they are able to provide their own private police force,  which in the interests of public safety and order, clear the streets of ” undesirable elements” or  street people like unauthorized pavement traders, ‘car guards” ,traffic-light hawkers, beggars and homeless street kids, and as a consequence, those who have the least ability to make a living in “normal respectable ways” are denied access to the public spaces that are constitutionally their right where they might eke out a living,

This post  Ode to the Central City Improvement District from The Daddy Long Legs provides  one view.

Rita Abrahamsen wrote about it in her book, Security Beyond the State:

Communities, and particularly today’s urban communities, are often heterogeneous, with limited consensus…

For ‘undesirable elements’, such as street children and vagrants, the CCID has meant increased harassment and more frequent arrest…Securicor officers frequently transport street children to so-called safe houses, in order to get them off the streets, in full knowledge that they will be back the next day…

A combination of pubic by-laws and private enforcement serves to prevent the poor and the homeless from utilizing the city’s public spaces, where they frequently make their livings through various forms of informal trading…The articulation of private-public and global-local that has emerged in Cape Town thus facilitates specific forms of security provision that strengthen aspects of the public and the state, at the same time as it increases power differentials, disempowers already marginalized individuals or groups and renders the security provided by both public and private agents a distinctly variable

The media play a key role in the demonization and criminalisation of these groups – some of them are far from innocent of crimes such as pilfering, pick pocketing, drunkenness and drug peddling etc, which is the justification used to exclude all of them, not just those proven guilty. It is no coincidence that this is in the interests of business owners and property developers as well.

There are certainly benifits for the city and is population  in making the public space safer and the CCID has contributed to these efforts,  see for example this article from the Cape Town Partnerships website: Strategic partnership enhances safety of CBD’s Company’s Garden , but it seems to me that there might be ways of including more people in achieving this and so enabling a  equitable  city for all of its citizens and visitors.

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Welcome to Ikea-land: Furniture giant begins urban planning project

From the Globe And Mail by DOUG SAUNDERS a report on Ikea’s aspirations as a city builder, or rather as “neighborhood” builders, starting in East London, are we likely to see a sort of giant Ikea store where you choose from a display and then walk out at the other side with everything you need for setting up home in a flat box .. they say not – I wonder… 

The 1,200 homes and apartments will be priced to appeal to a range of incomes, the Swedes promise. A few seven- to 11-storey condominium towers will pepper the area, and offices for high-tech firms and a hotel will fill the busier edges.

There are feelings you get when you enter an Ikea store. The vertiginous experience of getting lost in their craftily designed labyrinth. The surprise of wandering into something you hadn’t intended to buy. The discomfiting almost-warmth of a fake apartment. The faintly reassuring sense that your children and your car are in someone else’s hands. Then the odd realization that you’re really inside a high-security structure on the distant edge of town.

Infographic: Ikea's manual for building a neighbourhood

Would you like to feel that way all the time? The people who run the Swedish home-furnishings behemoth are launching a bold push into the business of designing, building and operating entire urban neighbourhoods. Where once they placed a couch in a living room, the Swedes now want to place you and 6,000 neighbours into a neglected corner of your city, design an entire urban world around you, and Ikea-ize your lives. Their bold, high-concept notion of an urban ’hood could be an important solution to the housing-supply shortages that plague many large cities – but it could take some getting used to.

“We are in keeping with the Ikea philosophy: We don’t want to produce for the rich or the super-rich; we want to produce for the families, for the people,” says Harald Müller, the head of LandProp, the property-development branch of Inter IKEA, the company that invests the profits from the furnishing giant.

These computer generated renderings depict the Strand East development in a neighbourhood designed by furniture giant Ikea. The images are urban design concepts only.

“Our approach must be to get the right housing and office prices while delivering very good quality at the same time, he added. “We want to be smart enough in our design that we can offer the product for a reasonable price.”

Facial Monitoring: The all-telling eye

Pervasive surveillance is now becoming extremely personalized – is there an infringement of our private space – are we even aware of all the body language we imply in a brief glance at  a piece of chocolate cake, a shiny new bauble in a window display or an attractive woman’s breasts in a magazine or in person! from The Economist

Webcams can now spot which ads catch your gaze, read your mood and check your vital signs:

IMAGINE browsing a website when a saucy ad for lingerie catches your eye. You don’t click on it, merely smile and go to another page. Yet it follows you, putting up more racy pictures, perhaps even the offer of a discount. Finally, irked by its persistence, you frown. “Sorry for taking up your time,” says the ad, and promptly desists from further pestering. Creepy. But making online ads that not only know you are looking at them but also respond to your emotions will soon be possible, thanks to the power of image-processing software and the ubiquity of tiny cameras in computers and mobile devices.

Uses for this technology would not, of course, be confined to advertising. There is ample scope to deploy it in areas like security, computer gaming, education and health care. But admen are among the first to embrace the idea in earnest. That is because it helps answer, at least online, clients’ perennial carp: that they know half the money they spend on advertising is wasted, but they don’t know which half.

Advertising firms already film how people react to ads, usually in an artificial setting. The participants’ faces are studied for positive or negative feelings. A lot of research, some of it controversial, has been done into ways of categorising the emotions behind facial expressions. In the 1970s Paul Ekman, an American psychologist, developed a comprehensive coding system which is still widely used.

Some consumer-research companies also employ goggle-mounted cameras to track eye movements so they can be sure what their subjects are looking at. This can help determine which ads attract the most attention and where they might be placed for the best effect on a web page.

This work is now moving online. Higher-quality cameras and smarter computer-vision software mean that volunteers can work from home and no longer need to wear clunky headgear. Instead, their eyes can be tracked using a single webcam.

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