As an upcycling fashion designer, my design method works quite opposite to that of the traditional fashion industry which is to design a piece of clothing, select the fabric, then create the garment. I like to find the fabric first and let that inspire what I make from it. Not all upcyclers do this, it’s just my method. I am completely enamored by textiles and fascinated with how they have shaped the history of interactions between countries, specifically between the Western world and the Global South. I am currently reading the book The Empire of Cotton by Sven Beckert which I would highly recommend for a more complete history on the topic of capitalism and its roots in the textile trade.
In a small town thrift shop in Squamish I recently found this beautifully printed Batik.
Batik can be printed, stamped or “written” which is the original traditional way, done with malam, hot liquid wax and dyed with leaves and flowers. Using a spouted bowl, known as the canting, motifs are drawn with the wax. Historically, handmade Batik is a very meaningful process. The motifs are made to tell a story and are a way for both the maker and the wearer to feel connected to something greater than themselves. Specific patterns are traditionally used to celebrate events or important people, for example Batik Udan Liris is used for wedding ceremonies or Batik Parang reserved only for the royal family.
The fabric selvage was printed with the name “Logan Muckelt”. When I searched the name I discovered a British company that fabricated machine wax prints, among other products starting back as far as 1890.
Logan, Muckelt & Co. was one of many European companies that manufactured prints for export to the Gold Coast (today’s Ghana). Imitation batik, a direct appropriation of Indonesian wax prints, made industrially, bypassed the long and tedious artisanal wax print method. Companies like Logan & Muckelt Co. introduced these to West Africa creating a new market outside of Indonesia.