Original Madras Trading Company is a family business now in its third generation in the hands of Prasan Shah. Since the company’s beginnings, they have endeavoured to share globally the beauty of cloth originally produced in Madras, now Chennai.
Their handloom project highlights the origin of Madras cloth and its exceptional craftsmanship and denotes a renewed culture of exchange through the interwoven cultures of South India and the West. By prioritising hand weaving, Original Madras Trading Company make room for the reclamation of process and heritage to be shared internationally while acknowledging the disruption of traditional Madras cloth through the colonial project.
Hand weaving may seem precarious due to its slow production, especially in comparison to the machine process; however, there are many advantages to the hand weaving approach.
There is no limitation on the number of yarns used when creating, which allows for endless shade variations and a rich depth of colour. Due to the nature of hand weaving, no two cloths are the same. The inherent beauty of hand weaving lives in the minor imperfections woven into the cloth. Unlike the machine production’s precision and perceived perfection, hand weaving is imbued with human touch and care placing craftsmanship above uniformity. The imperfections in hand woven cloth are features, not flaws, celebrating the beauty and value of singularity.
Handloom cloth is made by human hands and is a testimony of human endeavour as a shared experience – the frustration, concentration, care, and creativity that went into the production are part of the wearing experience. Look for the turmeric yellow selvage label visible on some of Original Madras Tracing Company’s items. These items are made using single weaver cloth – fabric that is woven by one individual weaver from beginning to end.
Sustainability is an innate part of the hand weaving process because electricity is not required to power handlooms. There is also a strong tradition of avoiding wastage rooted in the care and mindfulness of the process, which helps keep the company’s carbon footprint low.
Images: Original Madras Trading Company
The return to the practice of hand weaving recognises the significance of the process as part of a cultural tradition and carries it into a contemporary context. Original Madras Trading Company’s hand weaving project creates access to this tradition on a global scale allowing for the process and product to be cherished and appreciated for its unique qualities by a wider audience. Values of frugality and gratitude are inherent to the hand weaving practice, and this project forefronts these values which are at risk of disappearing due to the efficiency and mindlessness of machine production.
Original Madras Trading Company X Matt Hranek
In collaboration with Original Madras Trading Company, Matt Hranek – known for his adventures encompassing food, drink, and travel, as well as founding WM Brown Magazine – has delved into the company’s archive to create a limited collection of items. Hranek has worn and valued Madras fabrics for a long time as they fit easily into his preppy East Coast style. Hranek’s appreciation for the unconventional convergence of classic and contemporary is reflected in Original Madras Trading Company’s modern styles made from traditional techniques.
Copy by Beth James.