Carrying forward my Kantha and Shibori craft tales, I had a word with Mishael who has been managing Living Blue (a social business and luxury brand of CARE Enterprise Inc and NCVI in Bangladesh) operations since 2008. It was a while ago, when my sister ordered their luxurious scarf from Jaypore, which blew me away. And I remembered Tushar Kumar telling me of the same, when I spoke to him regarding his design journeys.
MD: Who started this organization?
Mishael: The idea took off under a CARE Bangladesh project named Nijera. Brigitta Bode, Anowarul Haq, Apurbo Kumar Roy, Shafiur Rahman and design consultant Tushar Kumar were the brains behind it, initially.
MD: What is the story behind these products?
Mishael: Quilts made in rural Bengal are known as Khetas or Kanthas. In the neighboring region they are also known as Sujni. Made for one’s personal use, they are simple, coarse and durable in nature. They are used and abused daily, cycled and recycled, as they become frail with age and are then mended which makes them thinner and thicker with time; containing history of the users and their families since they last a lifetime.
However, the heritage quilting techniques of Lohori (a Perisan word for wave), Jor (even) and Bejor (odd) were discontinued with time because they of being time consuming and unviable. But Tushar Kumar revived these heritage techniques along with the indigo plant dye, putting in place a social business by linking the artisans to the market for Living Blue.
What is Living Blue’s USP?
Mishael: Indigo dye and quilting are mastered by our artisans. The things to write home about are white on white quilts (our premiere quilt) indigo shibori quilt, daal bhaat quilt, cushion covers and indigo shibori stoles and shawls.
We are also looking at introducing more bags and clothing,soon.
How are your products high-end?
Mishael: I know the gravity of attaching a luxury tag to a product and we completely understand the responsibility it entails. Our indigo is farmed and processed under our watchful eyes. When the leaves are collected, strict standards and strenuous methods are followed, before dyeing. Being a natural dye, no two dips are the same. The True Bengal Indigo happens to be the finest because of its maturity, lustre, richness and variety of shades. Also R&D is continuously on to improve our product line.
The quilting skills are monitored by grading our quilters. The technique is unique to Northern Bangladesh and is worked on like a piece of art. There is a method to quilting, yet is a creative job. A fine marriage between the traditional modes and evolving craftsmanship, while introducing new motifs and patterns, signifies our quality. Each quilted fabric is different from the other and can never be reproduced, like anything handcrafted
(added to my cart of favourite things by calling for their catalogue!!!)