Beautiful pastel textiles from my travels

Deborah Mistry

Sugar Sand styles all incorporate beautiful Indian trims and Indian bridal style will always be a huge source of inspiration for the brand, but today I want to look back at some of the other textiles I have found on my travels…

Kente  (Kumasi, 2001) A proud symbol of Ghanaian identity, Kente cloth is woven by hand in the Ashanti region and was originally only worn by the Akan Kings. It is made in narrow strips which are then sewn together to form larger clothes. The different patterns created often have symbolic meanings, hence some particular patterns and colour combinations have become particularly popular. I bought this piece in a Kente weaving village outside Kumasi when I was living in Ghana on my gap year way back in 2001. I remember it was considered a strange choice as tourists normally went for the more instantly recognisable designs with yellow, orange and black. But I loved the pink, white and gold.

Wax print pale blue fabric (Accra, 2001) Another gap year find, this is from the famous Woodin’s store in Accra. Wax print cloth, though perceived as African, has a controversial history and I must admit it is also normally not my cup of tea, being both very bright and very bold. My friends and I used to love the Woodin’s store that sold it though as even though the prices were much higher than in the markets, it was an oasis of calm and air-conditioning and there was something intoxicating about the smell of the wax! One day I spotted this pale blue fabric though and you could only buy it in something like six metre lengths. It felt like a lot of fabric at the time but I have eventually used almost every last scrap for a shift dress, a couple of bags, cushion covers and bunting.

Ethiopian Netelas  (Addis Ababa 2005) Ethiopia was an absolute revelation to me, a truly extraordinary destination with a fascinating, unique culture. I also loved the traditional Ethiopian clothing and saw so many elegantly dressed women there. My sister and I both really admired the fine white cotton shawls with coloured woven borders called ‘netelas’ that women wore on a day to day basis. In a crowded market on our last day in Addis Ababa I bought one with a pink and one with a blue border and they made perfect summer scarves.

Crewel work shawl (Udaipur 2009) On the first night of a trip to India in 2009 my sister and I tried to get a rickshaw to see Independence Arch in Delhi, and like the gullible tourists we really shouldn’t have been (we’d both lived in India before) ended up outside a very expensive gift emporium and were both too tired and jetlagged to refuse to go in. And there I spotted the shawl of my dreams: ivory with white crewel work embroidery over it. It was very expensive and I tried bargaining to no avail but very nearly bought it anyway, it was so pretty!

‘You can’t spend so much money on your first night! You’ll easily find a cheaper one somewhere else’. This turned out to be the advice she wish she had never given for my poor sister, who subsequently found herself being dragged into every shop in Agra and Jaipur looking for another one just like it until I eventually found this one in Udaipur. It was worth the hunt though, I still love it and have had masses of wear out of it.

What textiles have you found on your travels? 

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