Exploring World Textiles

Hand embroidered jat wrap skirt

“TIGRA TIGRA is a design studio and shop which re-contextualizes art & design made in developing parts of the world. TIGRA TIGRA work with independent craftspeople and women’s cooperatives in South Africa, eastern Namibia and Bosnia. Each piece is focused on the merger of ancient tradition, modern interpretation and experimental design.”

How did the idea of TIGRA TIGRA come about?

The idea came about when I was studying at university and became very interested in the idea of applying social enterprise in developing communities and cultural traditions into my design work. 

What are your favourite types of textiles and why?

My favorite types of textiles are ones that have a good story. I love the versatility of textiles and the way that they work between garments and home and functionality in daily life.  I love the idea of these heavily embroidered and hand made textiles being put in a more laid-back streetwear context. Things that you can throw on and wear everyday as if they were a hoodie or oversized T-shirt. I’m very inspired by street culture and streetwear especially in developing communities and cities.  I grew up in Miami which has a lot of kitsch and big Haitian and Latin influence. I am still really drawn to a vibrant and sort of loud aesthetic. 

How do you know which countries to explore for textiles traditions? Do you create your own samples in LA and then take them to other countries for reproduction?

I work in Ahmedabad because I have a long-standing relationship with an amazing women’s cooperative there. I have just started a few other projects in other parts of the world that I have discovered. No, I don’t create any first samples in LA – I learn about the possibilities and techniques of the craftsperson first and then work within that perimeter, or combine different techniques, but I hardly ever just make something up randomly that wasn’t first inspired by a technique. 

What countries would you like to visit and explore for more ideas?

I would really love to travel to Lagos. I’ve never been at it looks so amazing – a lot of beautiful work is coming out of Lagos currently.  

Are there any designers or artists that inspire TIGRA TIGRA?

I am really inspired by many different artists like Taryn Simon, Yto Barrada, Hanna Eshel, my friend antiques’ dealer Emilie Irving, Kai of Sincerely Tommy…. 

hand embroidered tie sleeve warli blouse 

The warli embroidered garments are really incredible. Was it deliberate to make several pieces from the same embroidery?

The warli was hand-drawn by Vandana who manages the cooperative I work with in Ahmedabad. I mix the colour ways and draw the garments. Warli is based on an ancient form of painting done by the indigenous Adivasis tribe from Maharashtra and Gujarat. The warli tells stories of domestic life and religious beliefs.  

 Glass bead envelope bag

How did your glass beaded bag collaboration with anthropologist Megan Laws happen?

I met Megan Laws through my dear friend, Anna Haber. Anna works in marketing for an ethically-sourced gem company and had met Megan through her mutual friend. Megan was doing her field study living in the Nyae Nyae conservancy in Namibia with a Ju|’hoansi San family. She was learning the language and writing her thesis and was very interested in starting a project that could help generate income for the women.  The San have been very marginalized and mistreated by the Namibian government and their town is situated about 9 hours away from the nearest city so there is very little work. Megan, Anna and I held a workshop there where we got all the women together to try to start a sustainable business model producing beaded accessories and home goods.   

What are TIGRA TIGRA’s plans for the future?

We’ve recently collaborated on a really fun homeware collection with the Swiss company, enSoie, which I am a very big fan of. I would love to do a short film about the processes behind our work. I also am working on doing a short book with illustrations, writing and images about the work. 

What other types of textiles techniques would you like to use that it haven’t already?
I’d love to start incorporating Haitian drapo work and also Korean pojagi.

Can you recommend any interesting textiles or crafts books?
I recently bought the book, Rapt in Color, which has a beautiful curation of Korean pojagi work that is such an inspiration for colour and shape. I also love the tiny book, Sanzo Wada’s A Dictionary of Color Combinations.

 Shop TIGRA TIGRA here.

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