What does FAIR TRADE actually mean ........

"Free trade is the most effective poverty reduction strategy the world has ever seen." Economic growth empowers people not selective production consumed by the few that want to feel good about their coffees and chocolates. Agricultural communities throughout the developing world dream to join the modern world but are being held back in their development because Fairtrade has some romantic notion it is good for them and US.

only through economic development can you have equal trade, holding the third world back with 

FAIR TRADE definition : 
  1. trade in which fair prices are paid to producers in developing countries. 

  2. Now when we trace the producers for 1 cotton shirt....
  3. Does that mean that everyone needs to be paid fair prices or do they leave many out of the equation?

  • farmers
  • planters
  • pickers
  • sorters
  • ginners
  • drivers
  • unloaders
  • spinners
  • dyers
  • washers
  • weavers
  • pattern makers
  • cutters
  • tea servers
  • seamsters
  • finishers
  • packers 
  • label adherers
  • production assistants

I would say based on this preliminary list, the answer is no.

watch The BITTER TASTE and you decide:

and then the issue of monopoly comes into play, already-poor farmers actually have to pay to join up to the Fairtrade scheme. And in doing so, they also have to ensure that their business meets certain requirements, whether it is in their long-term interests or not. 

The Fairtrade Foundation demands certain things of the producers if they are to be accepted on to the scheme. For example, producers have to employ what the Fairtrade Foundation deems to be ‘environmentally sound agricultural practices’ and, to qualify as small producers, they have to ‘rely mainly on their own or their family’s labour’. It’s almost cruelly ironic: while champions of Fairtrade claim it is freeing producers from the exploitative relations of the market, it simultaneously ties them into the oppressive and exploitative moral relations of ‘us’ and ‘them’. They have to stick to the letter of ‘our’ vision of the world, in all its sustainable, anti-growth glory. That is, in exchange for a marginally better deal on the market, producers have to adhere to what the Fairtrade Foundation deems to be the right way of farming or harvesting.

"At the start of the annual Fairtrade Fortnight, a highly critical report by the Adam Smith Institute (ASI) warns that it is little more than a marketing exercise intended to maintain fair trade's predominance in an increasingly competitive marketplace. It says fair trade is "unfair" because if offers only a very small number of farmers a higher, fixed priced for their goods. These higher prices come at the expense of the great majority of farmers, it says, who - unable to qualify for Fairtrade certification - are left even worse off....four-fifths of the produce sold by Fairtrade-certified farmers ends up in non-fair trade goods, and typically just 10% of the premium consumers pay for fair trade actually goes to the producer." (read the whole report here)

It doesn’t take a psychologist to notice that there is something more than a bit narcissistic about ethical, Fairtrade-conscious shopping. It really is all about ‘us’. Yes, there may be a lot of accompanying PR guff about how our consumer choices over here are making their lives better over there, in Africa for instance. But as it is conceived here, the world of production, whether one is thinking of the harvesting of sugar beet or the farming of cocoa, functions as little more than a mirror in which we are encouraged to see ourselves – see ourselves, that is, as good, as morally virtuous. This is not feelgood shopping. This is feel-good-about-yourself shopping.
But in reality, is there much to feel good about? Is the me, me, me nature of ethical shopping blinding us to the reality of Fairtrade?

how to dye reds yellows

Before dyeing your fabrics they are often treated with a mordant solution. A mordant helps to fix the colours: in everyday terms it bites into the fabric and gives the natural dye something to fix on - indeed the word mordant means 'cutting' or 'biting' in French.
Not all natural dyes need mordants as they can be strong enough to fix to the fabric without the need of something to fix them. Onion skins, turmeric and tea are all such dyes and if you have ever spilt a curry or a cup of tea down a white garment then you have seen one of these dyes in action.
There are a wide range of different substances that can be used as mordants and some are fairly toxic. However, there are plenty that most people will feel comfortable with, including vinegar, salt and not so common substances such as alum. Alum is shorthand for aluminium potassium sulphate, which is used in the manufacture of baking powder.

Red Dyes

Madder (Rubia tinctorum) has been the plant of choice when creating a red dye over the last 5000 years and traces of madder dyed linen were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen. The vivid red colour from madder dyed clothes has meant that it has always been a popular plant when home dyeing.
As it is the root of the plant that is needed, it will be difficult to source from the wild, therefore madder is best grown from seed sown in springtime. It then takes about three years for it to reach its maximum yield. If you can't wait that long then you can buy some online at a fairly reasonable price.
To make a madder dye, first dig your roots and wash and chop them. Then place 350g of freshly harvest roots, or 50g of dried, into water for 24 hours. Unfortunately, you will need to then discard this water and cover the roots again with 5 litres of fresh water.
Grab a hand blender and blend all of the roots. The next step is one familiar to any home brewers as you will need to ferment the dye. As you don't really want to dye any of your home brew equipment, it is best to use a separate bucket with a lid for this job. (It is also good practice not to mix equipment used for foodstuffs with home dye equipment). Or you could just tie a plastic bag to an old bucket. Leave this for a week.
Soak the yarn or garment in an alum mordant for three to four hours. Strain the liquid from the bucket using a sieve and compost the mush. Leave your garment in the strained liquid for a couple of days, and voilĂ  it will have turned red!

Yellow dyes

The decline in the use of artificial colourants due to their toxicity in
food and textile industry, put forward by international market has
increased the importance of natural raw materials. From those, pomegranate
peel (Punica grantum) with solid applications is one of the
most important sources of natural dyes. The major colouring component
in pomegranate is tannins, extracted from the fresh and dried peels.

Yellow is perhaps one of the easier dyes to obtain naturally. It can be obtained from a variety of sources including onion skins, tumeric, cold tea and rhubarb. Or if you would like to obtain it from the wild in can be extracted from tansy, the aptly named dyers chamomile and from dyers greenweed.
To extract the yellow dye from the above plants, cut up your plants and stand them in cold water for 24 hours. Then boil for 1 hour. You will need roughly 9 litres of dyed water for 250g of wool. Ensure that the colour is vivid - if not, add more of your plant material and then strain. Dip the wool or garment into the warm solution and leave overnight to dye. If using tumeric or onion skins (although onion skins are not that vivid) you won't need a mordant.

faded glory

Here are some beautiful but faded paintings and details from the walls of the Maharaja's Palace of Bundi, Rajasthan - a small town with a story book palace hidden within their fort in the high hills above the town. The palace was fortunately taken over by a private caretaker/investor as the government of the region would have let places like this crumble to dust before anyone even could take notice.....

Cotton Tale

Over the past 10 years, India’s rapid growth aka Progress has offered hope of a better life for many, but not everyone, especially India’s living treasures, it’s rural Artisans and Craftspeople, who now are crying out for their government’s intervention to help save their traditional cultures and trades from dying out in the faceoff against massive industrialization. Blatant profiteering by fellow country folk and other corporate nationals plays like a good over evil battle with global outsourcing and mergers at the epicenter combined with a real lack of any national environmental concern or guidance. Some of the real issues at the forefront of the planet’s Spiritual Motherland highlight multiple tiers of hazard and hardship and perhaps are best symbolized by the pesticide ingesting suicides of over 200,000 destitute cotton farmers whose crop failure can often be traced to the planting of expensive genetically modified breeds of cotton in tandem with the chemicals required to maintain them. Slowly farmers are waking up from the placebo effect initiated by false prophets of toxic farming. The movement back to less expensive, lower-risk organic farming methods offers a bona fide solution for the entire cotton-growing crisis in India but without a sea change in world demand, agriculture policy and practices, thousands of Indian farmers and artisans are destined for a downward spiral.

July 2012 Preparing THE ORGANIC FIELD for sowing - photo by Kshitish Das/Odisha
Our re:Evolution began during the summer monsoon of 2012 on 4 acres of land with the planting of non GMO cotton variety Organic seeds in coordination with tribal farmers and a local weavers society in the most neglected region of India. AtelierOM commits wholeheartedly to support this transition toward certification as “Organic” and will encourage a radial expansion of farming to consumer projects across borders with the intention to grow and market superior and sustainable regional textiles that ultimately benefit partners and their communities.

Odisha Tribal Farmers - photo by Kshitish Das
All in all the textiles and production mission of AtelierOM is to encourage the healthful shift toward organic farming, away from pesticides and other harmful practices involved with use of synthetic dyes and to simultaneously encourage solutions in the over usage of energy and water all along textile processes. 
villagers preparing Organic Variety seeds for sowing photo by Kshitish Das
All of these efforts built upon the foundation of FAIR TRADE - equal opportunity, benefits and compulsory standards for every worker and artisan alike. 
two by two sowing seeds - photo by Kshitish Das
With a “Slow Fashion” revolution, it is our goal to become one of the most ethical and environmentally concerned vertical sources for Indian materials and products made collaboratively with traditional Artisans, young local Designers and Village Farmers.Due diligence is our mantra - with every supplier initiated into an inner circle of our collective as an eco conscious partners.

what you RESIST, persists...

BATIK means wax writing.
Atelier OM sample  2012
Batik is best known as a cloth that is traditionally made using manual wax - resist dyeing techniques. 

It is a method of textile decoration executed by partially coating the cloth in designs of wax and then dyeing the cloth with color, often repeated multiple times. The waxed areas keep the original underlying color and dye takes everywhere else. When the wax is removed by washing, the contrast between the dyed and undyed areas makes patterns. 
To create intricate unique designs, an artist may employ etching, discharge dyeing, stencils and use a variety of different tools for waxing and dyeing. There are even various wax recipes with different resist values. 
beeswax + paraffin
Artisans may work with silk, cotton, wool, leather, paper, or even wood and ceramics with cold dyes in natural or synthetic colors. Some of the best effects in batik are often achieved by chance.
Discoveries show batik already existed as an ancient art form in in 4th century BCE Egypt where it was used to wrap mummies - linen was soaked in wax and fine designs were made by the use of a sharp tool. In Africa, it was originally practised by the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria, Soninke and Wolof in Senegal.In Asia, the technique was practiced and perfected in China during the T'ang dynasty (618-907 CE), in Japan during the Nara period (645-794 CE. While Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand are known for their block printing (tjab) method to create batik on a large scale, batik is still predominately made by hand in Sri Lanka and India.

The history of Indian batik can be traced back 2000 years. Indians were conversant with the resist method of printing designs on cotton fabrics long before any other nation had even tried it. Rice starch and wax were initially used for printing on fabrics. The revival of batik in India began in the 20th century when it was introduced as a subject at the famous university  started by Rabindranath Tagore at Shantiniketan near Calcutta, West Bengal.

Sushumna, a Bengali dye master watches over a cauldron
All images are from our partner's fair trade rural Artisan  project that uplifts local Bengali women by training them in this art of wax resist and dying and supporting them to manage and market batik products from their village studio. They make sarees, stoles and meters of fabrics. They work on commissions and their own designs.
coal for boiling up dyes
mud stove

boil myrobolum for black dye
cold dye baths ready
drying dyes in sun

Some examples of AtelierOM batik designs for 2012:
for scarves + meters
for stoles + meters
for stoles + meters
for stoles 
for stoles + meters

All inquiries please contact AtelierOM@gmail.com
All images are copyright Atelier OM. 


All about Natural Dyes
Shades on Cotton:

Shades on Wool:

Shades on Silk:

Indians have been considered forerunners in the art of natural dyeing. Natural dyes find use in the colouring of textiles, drugs, cosmetics, etc. Owing to their non- toxic effects, they are also used for colouring various food products. In India, there are more than 450 plants that can yield dyes. In addition to their dye-yielding characteristics, some of these plants also possess medicinal value. Though there is a large plant resource base, little has been exploited so far. Due to lack of availability of precise technical knowledge on the extracting and dyeing technique, it has not commercially succeeded like the synthetic dyes.

Although indigenous knowledge system has been practised over the years, the use of natural dyes has diminished over generations due to lack of documentation. Also there is not much information available on databases of either dye-yielding plants or their products

Natural dyes, dyestuff and dyeing are as old as textiles themselves. Man has always been interested in colours; the art of dyeing has a long past and many of the dyes go back into prehistory. It was practised during the Bronze Age in Europe. The earliest written record of the use of natural dyes was found in China dated 2600 BC. Dyeing was known as early as in the Indus Valley period (2500 BC); this knowledge has been substantiated by findings of coloured garments of cloth and traces of madder dye in the ruins of the Indus Valley Civilization at Mohenjodaro and Harappa (3500 BC). Natural matter was used to stain hides, decorate shells and feathers, and in cave paintings. Scientists have been able to date the black, white, yellow and reddish pigments made from ochre used by primitive man in cave paintings. In Egypt, mummies have been found wrapped in dyed cloth

Natural dyes can be sorted into three categories: 
  • natural dyes obtained from plants, animals and minerals. Although some fabrics such as silk and wool can be coloured simply by being dipped in the dye, others such as cotton require a mordant.

Dyes do not interact directly with the materials they are intended to colour. Natural dyes are substantive and require a mordant to fix to the fabric, and prevent the colour from either fading with exposure to light or washing out. These compounds bind the natural dyes to the fabrics. A mordant is an element which aids the chemical reaction that takes place between the dye and the fibre, so that the dye is ab- sorbed. Containers used for dying must be non-reactive (enamel, stainless steel). Brass, copper or iron pots will do their own mordanting.

Not all dyes need mordants to help them adhere to fabric. If they need no mordants, such as lichens and walnut hulls, they are called substantive dyes. If they need a mordant, they are called adjective dyes. Common mordants are alum (usually used with cream of tartar, which helps evenness and brightens slightly); iron (or copper) (which saddens or darken colours, bringing out green shades); tin (usually used with cream of tartar, which blooms or brightens colours, especially reds, oranges and yellows), and blue vitriol (which saddens colours and brings out greens shades).There are three types of mordant: 
  • Metallic mordants: Metal salts of aluminium, chromium, iron, copper and tin are used. 
  • Tannins: Myrobalan and sumach are commonly used in the textile industry. 
  • Oil mordants: These are mainly used in dyeing turkey red colour from madder. The main function of the oil mordant is to form a complex with alum used as the main mordent.
The increasing market demand for dyes and the dwindling number of dye-yielding plants forced the emergence of synthetic dyes like aniline and coal-tar, which threatened total replacement of natural dyes.  There are also several factors which influence the content of the dye in each dye-yielding plant. In some cases, the dye content has not been thoroughly studied so far. 

Natural dyes obtained from plants:
Many natural dyestuff and stains were obtained mainly from plants and dominated as sources of natural dyes, producing different colours like red, yellow, blue, black, brown and a combination of these (Table 1). Almost all parts of the plants like root, bark, leaf, fruit, wood, seed, flower, etc. produce dyes. It is interesting to note that over 2000 pigments are synthesized by various parts of plants, of which only about 150 have been commercially exploited. Nearly 450 taxa are known to yield dyes in India alone, of which 50 are considered to be the most important; ten of these are from roots, four from barks, five from leaves, seven from flowers, seven from fruits, three from seeds, eight from wood and three from gums and resins.

Natural dyes are less toxic, less polluting, less health hazardous, non-carcinogenic and nonpoisonous. Added to this, they are harmonizing colours, gentle, soft and subtle, and create a restful effect. Above all, they are environment friendly and can be recycled after use.

Although natural dyes have several advantages, there are some limitations as well. Tedious extraction of colouring component from the raw material, low colour value and longer time make the cost of dyeing with natural dyes considerably higher than with synthetic dyes. Some of the natural dyes are fugitive and need a mordant for enhancement of their fastness properties. Some of the metallic mordents are hazardous(copper). Also there are problems like difficulty in the collection of plants, lack of standardization, lack of availability of precise technical knowledge of extracting and dyeing technique and species availability. 

Medicinal properties of natural dyes: 
Many of the plants used for dye extraction are classified as medicinal, and some of these have recently been shown to possess antimicrobial activityPunica granatum L. and many other common natural dyes are reported as potent antimicrobial agents owing to the presence of a large amount of tannins. Several other sources of plant dyes rich in naphthoquinones such as lawsone from Lawsonia inermis L.(henna), juglone from walnut and lapachol from alkannet are reported to exhibit antibacterial and antifungal activity. Singh et al. studied the antimicrobial activity of some natural dyes. Optimized natural dye powders of Acacia catechu (L.f.) Willd, Kerria laccaRubia cordifolia L. and Rumex maritimus were obtained from commercial industries and they showed antimicrobial activities. This is clear evidence that some natural dyes by themselves have medicinal properties. 

Ocher is a dye obtained from an impure earthy ore of iron or ferruginous clay, usually red (hematite) or yellow (limo- nite). In addition to being the principal ore of iron, hematite is a constituent of a number of abrasives and pigments.

However, it is a matter of concern that the indigenous knowledge of extraction, processing and practice of using of natural dyes has diminished to a great extent among the new generation of ethnic people due to easy availability of cheap synthetic dyes. It has been observed that the traditional knowledge of dye-making is now confined only among the surviving older people and few practitioners in the tribal communities of Arunachal Pradesh & Orissa. Unfortunately, no serious attempts have been made to document and preserve this immense treasure of traditional knowledge of natural dyemaking associated with the indigenous people. Lack of a focused conservation strategy could also cause a depletion of this valuable resource.It is time that steps are taken towards documenting these treasures of indigenous knowledge systems. Otherwise, we are bound to lose vital information on the utilization of natural resources around us.

To conclude, there is an urgent need for proper collection, documentation, assessment and characterization of dye-yielding plants and their dyes, as well as research to overcome the limitation of natural dyes.

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