Kavita Parmar and Marcela Echavarria met more than 15 years ago, but they became friends when they realized they both shared the same radical vision of what craft and, more importantly, fair fashion should be. “I had received a scholarship in New York that included an investment round for my brand,” explains the first, who at the time focused on the IOU project, a company that connects customers, craftsmen and producers through QR printed on the labels codes connected . He had previously founded Raasta, a brand that valued the textile tradition of his native India. “On the day of my departure I met Marcela and she told me not to take the money because I would regret it. I drowned in the project, but I saw it clearly,” he recalls today. “The fact is that I’ve worked for years as a consultant in companies where third parties have entered and I know from experience that you lose control and lose your spirit,” adds Echavarria, who has helped various companies for over 25 years to integrate craftsmanship into their business model.
In 2020, just before the pandemic, they hosted the first edition of Xtant in Mexico City, a festival or more precisely a meeting between textile artisans from different countries focused on sharing experiences, creating synergies and above all the Transmission of knowledge focused traditional techniques to technological innovations. All of that authentic and radical approach that characterizes their projects. For Echavarria, “It’s not a fashion event because fashion has erased the language of textiles and we need to go back to the original codes.” “We wanted to create a real, non-digital community of people we’ve met throughout our careers . There is no need to wait for them to come down from above to add value to their projects. It has to be done from below,” explains Parmar.
Last year they held the second edition “because the first time we realized that there was a market, some participants were sold out.” This time they have chosen Mallorca. “We needed a Spanish region with traditional textiles and it was well connected. A friend left us his farm, Sa Forteza, and we saw that it was the perfect place,” they say. Now they are preparing for the third, which will also take place on the Balearic island from June 7th to 20th and this time with the support of the state government.
The first part, from the 7th to the 17th, consists of educational lectures and intense experiences, from dinners based on local gastronomy to olfactory tastings. There will be debate on such necessary issues as cultural appropriation (“a complex concept because you don’t have to record everything or have it plundered,” they comment); Greenwashing, i.e. washing the face of companies to appear sustainable; and above all the role of technology in the craft, which for Parmar and Echavarria “is just a tool”, they say. “Technology will not save us; on the contrary, it encourages accumulation and wealth in the hands of the few. You have to go back to the beginning and use it with a human intent.”
Xtant, as in previous editions, will culminate with a market from June 17th to 20th, where each participant can “sell their work horizontally, because even the purchase is an act of re-education,” explains Echevarria, “there are well-known participants , but here they are only one more, and they sell alongside strangers”. These relevant names include American designer Ulla Johnson; Emily Bode, the creator who’s been the talk of the town for three seasons thanks to her update on North American textile techniques; the Royal Tapestry Factory; or the founders of Marrakshi Life, the company that has managed to successfully combine luxury in the most classic sense with the great Moroccan textile tradition.
DVD1106. Interview with fashion entrepreneur Kavita Parmar in her studio. Alvaro Garcia. 11.05.2022alvaro garcia
“Craftsmen are all invited by the festival. The only requirement is that they want to share their wisdom, because we have met some masters who have refused to reveal their techniques,” says Parmar. The organization, which already has almost a dozen professionals and 40 volunteers, is responsible for paying for their trip, providing them with retail space, creating the visual story (photos and videos that they can later share on their social networks) and, of course, encourage the space to meet and chat with fellow artisans from every continent. “We were the seeds of incredible synergies. One of the indigo masters living in India stayed in Oaxaca, Mexico and taught the craftsmen a faster method of dyeing. Another one in Ethiopia learned how to make natural paints here and went into business for himself,” they comment at the same time.
The idea is to create a global network from the local. “You have to rethink the whole model. We cannot continue to improve the old model, just as YouTube is not a patch on TV, textile crafts cannot be seen as a patch on the current industry,” says Parmar. Marcela Echavarria goes even further: “You also have to rethink ways of life. For example, most weavers are farmers, they understand the land, but today that ancestral connection between fabrics and crops is missing.” Textile crafts condense wisdom, create communities, transmit heritage “and set aside concepts that are detrimental to today’s world, such as competitiveness or individualism “. “It’s an exercise in honesty.”