The Bagru of Rajasthan is synonymous with the art of block printing, an ancient technique of stamping fabric with hand-carved wooden blocks. While urbanization has taken over most small villages and their traditions, this craft is kept alive by other brands, who hope to reinvent the craft for a modern audience. One such brand aiming for a lasting revival of block printing is Chhapa, a conscious apparel and accessories start-up that hopes to help artisans in the craft earn a dignified living.
“CHHAPA means leaving a Chap (a footprint) in Gujarati. When a design is stamped on any material using a block of wood, it is called the Chap. Since I wanted to rejuvenate the art of printmaking and decided that all products would revolve around this technique, I couldn’t find a better brand than Chhapa”, explains Shipa Patel, founder of this family business.
They are based in Ahmedabad and Jaipur, the latter being where their workshop is located and most of the artisans who practice block printing are from this region. It was a trip to a small village that led Shipa to her calling. “My first encounter with Block Printing was after my university studies when I visited a small town near my village in Gujarat called Deesa. As an art lover and admirer of handmade items, I “I was immediately fascinated by the whole block printing process. I approached the artisans to print a few samples. As I got more involved in the process, I realized that the artisans and the art really come through a bad phase. Many were on the verge of abandoning the practice of this art because in today’s fast-paced world, most textiles are printed using high-end machines. The hand weaving process hand and natural dye with hand block printing is slowly dying and I don’t want artisans to abandon the beautiful craftsmanship that has been passed down to them from generation to generation,” she adds.
Sustainable clothing brand Chhapa was founded in 2013 to give back to the block printing artisan community. Today they work with three fundamental principles – doing what is best for the environment, artisans and customers. “We source materials from different parts of India and where possible directly from the weavers to support small hand weaving units which do not contribute to the carbon footprint in terms of manufacturing. Our printing is also done by hand block printing. Although cotton fabrics cannot be recycled, they can be recycled to create many different useful products, which contributes in one way or another to the circular economy,” adds Shipa.
The team also uses environmentally friendly azo-free dyes in the process and recycles most of the waste generated during manufacturing. But what makes Chhapa click with its customers? “The particularity of Chhapa lies mainly in the prints. Our designs are modern, casual and contemporary unlike traditional prints, which have brought a new flavor to art and appealed to the younger generation as customers. In addition, we are very attentive to the choice of quality fabrics in order to be able to offer a 100% pure cotton experience to our customers. We’ve always wanted to reach a younger audience and make them more environmentally conscious,” says Hardik Patel, Shipa’s husband who also runs the business.
In its drive to popularize block printing, Chhapa launched its online store in 2017 (www.chhapa.in) and a flagship retail store in Ahmedabad in 2018. The artisans they support have now revived their generational love for craftsmanship. “When the artisans first started working with us, we weren’t able to support them, but now they’ve had to expand their print shop to keep up with the demand. This is the most important thing that we are very proud of,” says Shipa.
Just like Chhapa, many brands promote conscious and slow fashion. Of this adoption of conscious labels across India, Shipa says, “We have all been guilty of one particular crime: getting caught up in the frenzy of markdowns and annual sales. We buy things we don’t need, items that aren’t our style or flattering. Why? Because they are on sale. But we have to stop, because it goes against everything that conscious living stands for. Fashion must stop being disposable. This is why there are so many moves and advancements in the fashion industry to encourage sustainable fashion and a circular economy that not only considers raw material sourcing and manufacturing, but also the recycling of textiles. after use. However, as consumers, we need to take responsibility and be more discerning when walking into a store and choosing clothes. »