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Cultural Sustainability in Craft Ecosystems: Decolonial Perspectives on India’s Handmade Industry

Event Label
Organisational Units
Education in the Arts
Location Description
Online via Zoom

Lecture by Laya Chirravuru organized by Elke Gaugele and Sarah Held, studio for Fashion and Styles (IKL). In Englisch

Within the last decade, the global discourse on sustainability and sustainable fashion has gained tremendous momentum, resulting in both positive developments and contradictions. While notable efforts are being made to align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the heightened awareness of this subject has also exposed issues like greenwashing and a lack of transparency. However, this modern awakening in the Global North that is often associated with the three pillars – environmental, economic, and social sustainability, may not adequately address similar goals in the context of the non-industrial cultures of making prevalent in the Global South.

This lecture is an introduction to the nuances of cultural sustainability in the context of the handmade industry in India. In a country with a vast population, a diverse craft heritage, a complex colonial history, and the pursuit of a postcolonial identity to integrate with the global economy – the issues surrounding ethical, equitable, and sustainable fashion are multifaceted. This talk dives into a cultural trajectory, examining historical sustainable practices that have thrived, collapsed, and been renegotiated. Going beyond the three pillars, it opens the debate to understand why cultural sustainability is a more relevant framework to comprehensively address the complexities inherent in India’s craft ecosystem.

By highlighting the problems in the contemporary perceptions and popular portrayals of sustainable fashion in the handmade industry, it emphasizes potential decolonial perspectives within the Indian fashion context. It also outlines the evolving landscape in the cultural economy that points towards degrowth and decentralization as promising alternatives. Lastly, it invites a dialogue to analyze the longstanding issue of cultural appropriation and explores possibilities for equitable international cross-cultural collaborations.

Laya Chirravuru is a design researcher with a background as a fashion designer, focused on creating social design strategies to support the fashion industry through research for sustainable impact. She is invested in examining the nuances of cultural sustainability within the textile craft ecosystems of South Asia, and the potential of digital agency to rethink cultural preservation. She is the Community Engagement Lead at Roots Studio (NY), where her work is aimed at cultural knowledge sharing and creative exchange. She is an alumnus of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation and is based in Leipzig, Germany.