One of my clients is the beautiful Dana, the girl behind the Bahrain based blog, The Overdressed. (She can also be found on instagram where she has a large following). She sent me this link to this story that she posted last week with the help of Confashions and I asked her permission to share it with you. I am a real fabric advocate and one of the things that drew me to vintage initially was the high end feel to the fabrics that you can't always find in RTW now (or if you do it is so expensive that it can be mind boggling). Some fabrics would cost so much to reproduce in a modern world that they just aren't anymore, or the craftsman who knew the processes have been lost to time with no one to pass down their knowledge.
However, there are still pockets in the modern world where attention to more traditional fabrics are being well paid. You see it in Haute Couture and there are even some ready to wear designers that are having mills go outside their norms to produce really outstanding pieces. Here we take you to a festival on the island of Bahrain that celebrates the traditional weaving of gold thread directly into the fabric - it is done by hand and takes four women!
I hope this will kick off a bit of a mini-series that will continue to explore the techniques and challenges that go into making fabrics both from a historical perspective and now. I think that the world we live in tends to take this part of the process for granted. We ooh and ahh at the result but because we live in such a fast pace world we just don't really get exposed to what it truly takes (and took) to produce those jaw dropping fabrics.I would like to change that!
Please enjoy the post, re-printed in full here, and maybe it will make you look at that vintage caftan you have hanging in your vintage closet and little bit differently!
"Yesterday evening we had the pleasure of witnessing all the beautiful (and might we add overdressed) traditional craft that our little island has to offer at the Weaving Colours Festival at the National Museum with our special guest from Kuwait, Confashions."
In an initiative to promote Bahraini heritage and talent, the Ministry of Culture offers local traditional craft workers, artisans, entrepreneurs and contemporary artists to showcase their products and activities during the annual festival. It also offers musicians and folk artists the opportunity to revive and perform popular music and folk songs!
We were completely in awe of the Bahraini women who weaved gold threads, process known as kurar, directly into fabric, creating the traditional Bahraini thob, still worn by many women in Bahrain. The crafty ladies explained that it takes four women to weave the gold into the desired fabric. Three women hold on to different parts of the thread while one women sewed it on to the fabric.
Around the corner from the crafty ladies were the crafty men, weaving baskets and fabrics.
Contemporary Bahraini artisans such as Green Bar were also included at the Festival. A special "wardrobe scent" collaboration was formed between the Ministry of Culture and Green Bar in celebration of the Weaving Colours Festival. Everything is made in Bahrain, the sketch on the box is hand drawn by Green Bar founder, Sheikha Reem Al Khalifa, the almond shaped wardrobe scent is hand made in Aali by pottery artisans and infused by Green Bar with 100% organic essential oils such as sandalwood, lavender and bergamont.
Much was also to be discovered inside the museum! A beautiful display of traditional Bahrani thobs and Bishts were generously provided by the ruling family for the display of traditional (and VERY overdressed) garments. Our favorite type of Bahraini thob boasts the naqda technique. Naqda is a word used in the past to refer to the weight of silver. Previously in the region women's dresses were designed using real silver threads which were bought by the gram and are sewn using a special type of needle. These dresses were referred to as designed using "naqda" or silver threads.
Another impressive and beautiful piece on display was the late Emir, Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa's bisht made with kurar embroidery which produces beautiful ribbons of gold zeri, silver zeri and briesam that are made by hand and used to decorate clothing.
It is the result of a group effort in which the width of the final product depends on the number of women involved in the process. The Qataba sits opposite her partners (as in the photo above), who assume the role of the Doakhil, holding and weaving several strands at a time while the Qataba guides the process and attaches the ribbon as it forms directly onto garments. While the popular korar zeri makes an appearance in many different styles of thoub, the breisam version is reserved exclusively for men’s clothing."