The Peoples Fabric

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Hey Ali, thank you for taking the time to chat with blairecreative today. It’s quite obvious that you’re passionate about something really unique. Can you share with us what this is?

I’d say it’s a combination of a few of my passions. But the idea of it is far bigger than just me…

The People’s Fabric source beautiful ikat fabrics that have been traditionally hand dyed and hand woven by indigenous artisan women in West Borneo, Indonesia. We do this through working in partnership with a not-for-profit organisation called Planet Indonesia and a local women’s weaving cooperative in the region. With every purchase, you are supporting initiatives run by the cooperative that promote cultural preservation and identity, whilst providing pathways to financial independence for women and their communities.

For the past 12 months, we have been diversifying these fabrics into homeware products, like cushions, that can translate well into a modern environment. More recently we’ve been experimenting with ikat and handcrafted leather bags and we are loving the direction this is headed!

How long have you been running The Peoples Fabric, and who are the inspiring individuals behind this initiative?

The idea of The People’s Fabric was born when I was working in Timor-Leste and Indonesia a few years back and it has evolved over time. It now represents an intersection between the traditions and cultures of weaving communities in West Borneo and a growing movement towards ethical consumerism, where people value the journey of a product instead of those straight off a factory production line.

The people I’ve met over the past few years whilst working in community development, both locally and internationally, have been a huge source of inspiration and motivation for me, and given me some great insight into how grassroots initiatives can have significant impact on a community.

I’ve heard that when women weave, they weave stories into the product that they’re producing – is this true? What sort of stories do they weave?

The skills required to weave an ikat is simply mind-blowing and watching an ikat being made from conception to creation ignites a whole new appreciation for both the process and the final product. I still ogle at the ikat cushions on my couch!

Like any piece of art, an ikat tells a story. The motifs that the artisans weave into their ikat represent stories that have been passed down for generations and can symbolise prosperity, security, fertility or the sacred bond of marriage, to name a few.

With every product purchased, we include a weaver profile that includes a little information about what the motif means in her culture. On the flipside, if you love your ikat, you can send us a thank you note or a photo and we will do our best to forward it on to the artisan.

We want to build connections… Let the stories continue.

There’s an organisation who you’ve partnered with to help empower these women – who are they?

Planet Indonesia are such an innovative organisation and I’m so proud to have them as our partner. They recognise the connection between people, culture, the environment and the economy and apply this balanced approach across all their programs. They are about building economically resilient communities through the promotion of cultural identity and sustainable resource management.

A perfect example of this is the women’s weaving cooperative we also partner with, through which communal businesses are built to support members of the community to become financially independent. And if they are more financially independent, they are less likely to engage with work in destructive industries, such as palm oil or animal trafficking, that are devastating their local environment, wildlife and community cohesion.

Now that we know a bit about you, how can we support The Peoples Fabric?

As always, Instagram and Facebook are great ways to show your support, and you can check out our collection on The People’s Fabric website and get in early for Mother’s Day! I also have an Etsy shop, which is such a great platform for creative people to start, grow and manage their business.

On that note, I’m going to throw in a cheeky plug and ask everyone to vote for The People’s Fabric in the #EtsySmallBusiness contest! The profile with the most votes wins $13,000, so every vote will bring us one step closer to dramatically increasing our support to the indigenous artisan women we work with through our partner organisations, whilst kick starting the development of new and unique products that incorporate their incredible ikat textiles.

You can cast your votes here.

I’m sure you have some exciting endeavors coming up. Would you like to share them with us?

Always! On Sunday 23 April, I’ll be hosting a stall at the Melbourne Collective Design Market at Federation Square, where I’ll be surrounded by so many unique brands and upcoming designers doing their thing.

The People’s Fabric have also been invited to become a social enterprise partner in Moral Fairground’s innovative Leaders of Change school program. This program works with students aged 16-18 years old and is all about big picture thinking and brainstorming solutions to real-life challenges many entrepreneurs face. It’s such a great opportunity for the students and something I would have absolutely loved to participate in when I was younger!

 And if you had the power to change one thing in the world, what would it be?

I find questions like this so difficult to answer, as my head becomes abuzz with ideals that feel so far out of reach. But I’m a big believer of Think Global, Act Local and love the energy and ideas that can be galvanized through collective action.

I really loved this year’s International Women’s Day theme of Being Bold – encouraging us to push past our discomforts, be a voice and be heard. We can educate, we can learn, we can grow, we can change and we can have impact. Sometimes I think the best place we can start is through accepting, respecting and celebrating our differences – surely, we could only grow from these experiences…

Thank you.

Sarah Long