The Festival of Natural Fibres, now in its fourth year, is an annual event designed to bring together fashion and textile designers, brands, sustainability experts, students and activists – to focus on how to drive the changes required. The weekend of August 21st saw The Forge, an iconic venue in the Isle of Dogs in London, buzzing with activity. Visitors trouped in from across the UK and further afield.
The event was organised by a core team from Khadi London, Freeweaver SAORI Studio, and ONE. Apart from being a part of the organising team, Erna Janine of Freeweaver SAORI Studio played the important role of facilitating with Craft Central. Paula Wolton of ONE’s role in getting speakers on board was crucial. A team of four people from Khadi London helped with organising the event; Kishore Shah, Jo Salter, Saumya Singh and Ashna Patel.
Reconnecting Farming to Fashion’ was this year’s theme. This was brought to life by an exhibition showcasing British and Indian natural fibres – cotton, wool, forest silks and jute in the case of Indian fibres and wool, flax, and hemp for British fibres – including the processes to turn these into the fabric. Curated by Erna Janine and Saumya Singh, the exhibition struck a crucial balance between aesthetics and content.
A bonus this year was the presence of students and recent graduates who had worked with khadi – and hand created fabric from India. They inaugurated the festival with the shaking of an embroidered forest silk banner, embroidered with a quote from Gandhi, ‘in a gentle way you can shake the earth’. The students, Sarah, Misha, Morgan, Molly, Ashna and Caitlin were the panellists for the first session. The panel was moderated by Safia Minney, author, activist and founder of pioneering fashion brand People Tree.
The ongoing festival is the brainchild of Kishore Shah, founder of Khadi London who said, “The goal of the festival is to create a movement for change. There are so many natural fibres available in the UK, India and other parts of the world that can be used to create beautiful fabrics with far less impact on the planet, as well as supporting skilled livelihoods.”