Caroline Raybould: Fashion and Textiles Strand

Being part of the India 75 research project has been a rewarding experience with much learning about what it means to be a part of a large research project, as well as an opportunity to develop both my own research and practice as a designer, with an interest in sustainability.

My key role at university is as a lecturer, but I have been involved in research for a few years now, so it was exciting to be asked to be part of an AHRC project, which had an international focus, and connected creatives in India and the UK.

I was part of the Fashion and Textiles Strand, and worked with Vaishali Verma, a student on the Master’s in Textiles course at Birmingham City University, and Mala Sinha, a superannuated professor of business and founder of Buna’wat, a small company working with women in her community to create knit and crochet goods.

Initially when we were grouped, we struggled to decide where our common ground was within the work we were producing, but after several meetings online we started to get to know each other, and realised that Covid-19 had forced all of us to work in new ways, with all of us drawing on the local. Fletcher and Tham (2019), in their book Earth Logic, state that “localism favours the use of nearby resources, place-specific knowledge, community self-reliance…”. We decided to produce a digital booklet which showcased our work in respect to the unifying theme of ‘local’, the idea being that it could be used to engage with an ethical consumer who would enjoy learning more about how things are made, and why buying from local businesses is important.

What I loved about the project was the opportunity to get to know the two inspiring people in my team, we were all at very different stages of our professional careers, and the project really facilitated a sharing of knowledge and ideas, with all of us able to contribute something special to the project. Mala had a wealth of business and academic skills bringing clarity to the project, I drew on my own research in the field of design, sustainability, and trends. And we were both inspired by Vaishali’s designs and innovation, and she brought the youthful energy to our project! Vaishali also drew in a colleague from India who created some beautiful illustrations for the final booklet that we created.

I also learnt a lot from the three project leaders, it was so useful for me (in the beginning of my research career) to understand how a large research project is co-ordinated and what can be achieved.

As a result of the project, I am conducting a follow-on creative project with Vaishali Verma from my team. We draw on Vaishali’s research and printing knowledge which is inspired by 1960's fashion and psychedelia, and combine it with my expertise in natural dyes. We aim to produce a series of sixties inspired prints using natural dyes, many of which have been grown and gathered locally, we named our project Flower Power. I have also learnt from this project that by collaborating with others – we can imagine and achieve something innovative. It has been a project that has been challenging at times, but, ultimately very rewarding. Thank you for the opportunity!