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Poplin: Made in India

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I blame Frances Hodgson Burnett. It was her children's novel, A Little Princess, that first filled my head with elephants and “ayahs” – Indian gentlemen with scarlet turbans, saffron tents and mythical demi-gods with blue-painted skin. The heroine, Sara Crewe, goes on a voyage from Bombay with her father to Miss Minchin's Academy for Girls, where she has imaginary feasts in her garret room and dreams of the hot Indian sun. 

As a little girl, I thought India sounded like the most enchanted place in the world. All grown up, I set off to live in Mumbai with a few extra suitcases and a head full of dreams.

Of course, India isn't all picture-book perfection; there are still some enormous developmental hurdles to overcome and the eccentric levels of bureaucracy that swathe even the most mundane processes can be incredibly frustrating. 

But, for me, two things define India and have made it the perfect home while starting Poplin: firstly, it's a place where you can't help believing in the future; secondly, it's the most visually stimulating country on earth!

I am based in Mumbai, a thriving city with the Arabian Sea lapping at its feet. From a rooftop at night you can see the lights twinkling along the bay in a curved line –the locals call it The Queen's Necklace. Even in twilight, scores of people buzz along the seafront – elderly Mumbaikars on regular evening strolls, young couples snatching secret moments, and everything and anything being sold for a song. 

During the day, you'll find me sitting with merchants in the rainbow-hued fabric markets, drinking hot chai, discussing prices or just soaking up their vast knowledge of textiles. India is a fabric mecca. Not only can you source beautiful existing fabrics, but I also work with screen printers who hand-print my designs onto silk, painstakingly using the oldest surviving print technique. 

This vibrant craft tradition is one of the greatest things about living and working as a designer in India. And there's nothing precious about it; families have been perfecting the same techniques for generations. I feel privileged to observe the younger members learning from their fathers, uncles, or the ubiquitous Indian brother or “bhai”.

~Lucy Archibald


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