PMSA trip 2019: The love for design, colour and print

Each week, Whitecliffe Fashion Tech students will have their unique PSMA Indian journey highlighted as they’re immersed in international issues and culture – this week, we feature Wellington student Angelika Olsen.

Tamil Nadu is the heart of textile production in India. Out of this southern state comes 33 percent of all woven and knitted textiles for the country. In the Erode district alone, many towns have specialities in production, from fibre to garment, and we were given the opportunity to visit a selection.

The first very bumpy ride was to Poomex in Tirupur, a factory dedicated to knit fabrics; taking cotton bales all the way through to knitted jersey. This unit can go through millions of tons of raw cotton a year, producing for the domestic and international markets. The cotton bale shed is piled high like a fluffy cloud stack, and the workroom ceilings and vents are all covered in soft down from the loose strands floating in the air. And it makes you sneeze!

Another highlight was the weaving mill in the outskirts of Erode, along rough pot-holed country roads. Using projectile machines, they produce white cotton fabrics in different widths and styles. Seeing the heddle frames being threaded by hand was in stark comparison to the swift machines, grunting away producing cloth. We got to see this plant with some of the Bannari Amman Institute of Technology (BIT) Textile students as well, it was a fantastic way to bond and make friends over asking questions and looking at the processes we were being shown.

A factory style more familiar to us Whitecliffe Fashion Tech students was AKR Textiles plant also in Tirupur. One of three locations for this company, they handle a lot of big name brands so no
pictures allowed, it was all very hush hush!

Using machines from Austria, and Portugal, they screenprint, emboss, embroider, and sew, which was great to see on a mass scale that New Zealand just doesn’t have. Employing over 9,000 people over their three locations, they provide valuable opportunities, for women in particular, to earn a living wage, and they also take part in efforts to plant trees and recycle waste, which is a great initiative and example.

When talking about Indian textiles, silk has to be mentioned at least once.

We had the honour of seeing a number of establishments dedicated to the hand loom, creating incredible sarees in jacquard and motifs. We got to see the way the machine works and some even got the opportunity to try working one. The saree process can take anywhere from 3 to 5 days for one and is a skill handed down generationally in the villages. The craftsmanship and details are extraordinary, and it was an important experience to value the effort and standards that these workers have, and the love they give into the designs, colours and prints.

These industry visits have been tremendously informative, and they really solidified the theory lessons that we’ve had. It’s been encouraging to walk through a factory floor and know what each step in the whole process is, from fibre to store, and to have a little insight into how it’s run. At the time of writing, we still have three more visits planned – lace, silks, and shawls, and I can’t wait!

Read more from the PSMA India Trip 2019

Being awarded a Prime Minister’s Scholarships for Asia (PMSA) is a once in a lifetime opportunity, one which 15 Whitecliffe New Zealand Fashion Tech students are the lucky recipients of for 2019.

The level 5 Diploma in Apparel and Fashion Technology students, seven from Auckland and eight from Wellington, are travelling to Bannari Amman Institute of Technology in India as part of their Indian Apparel and Textile Practicum. 

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