Bengal Muslin and the Selvedge World Fair, 2021

“… the world fair enables those that create handmade textiles to tell their own stories and share their cultural heritage, recontextualizing the textiles we buy as part of a rich material culture. … the Selvedge Fairs … are a meeting point for conversation, appreciation and of course the joys of forming your very own collection of beautifully made wares”.  Polly Leonard, founder of Selvedge Magazine.

“Bangladesh, Saiful Islam / Bengal Muslin, Muslin Weaving -Some of the finest traditions of white on white work come from the Indian subcontinent, whether the chikan embroidery work from Lucknow, or weaving with supplementary white wefts as in the jamdani of Bangladesh.  Working with such fine thread is challenging and time consuming but fabrics of great beauty are being produced and Bengal Muslin is collaborating with attempts to grow the almost vanished variety of cotton historically used to make jamdani.”  Introduction to Bengal Muslin by Selvedge

Since 2014, Bengal Muslin has been leading the revival of muslin, the pure cotton textile famous for its translucence, gossamer-like threads and unique motifs.  The project initiated by Drik-Bengal Muslin, has researched the origins of muslin and cultivated a variety of cotton plants on the riverbanks where the original cotton plant (‘phuti karpas’) was grown, held a Muslin Festival, published a book, ‘Muslin. Our Story’, and produced a film, ‘Legend of the Loom’.  Bengal Muslin’s goal is to revive the lost art of high count (200-400) cotton yarn weaving in Bangladesh.  Fine ‘new muslin’ cloth featuring a variety of exquisite and ancient motifs, is currently being manufactured using the same processes and in the same villages outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, where the cloth was originally produced many centuries ago.

The renowned Selvedge World Fair, billed as a celebration of cloth, culture and creativity, took place from the 31st August until the 5th of September.  The five-day event was held online due to the pandemic.  The fair presented the work of 150 master artisans from more than 75 countries and brought together varied, and in some cases endangered, textile traditions from around the world.  Bengal Muslin was honoured to have been included in this unique fair at which Bangladesh’s superb craft of muslin was featured.  This was arguably the first time a Bangladeshi heritage project was included in an international gathering of this nature at which Bengal Muslin presented muslin’s multi-faceted history, screened its documentary film, ‘Legend of the Loom’, and highlighted the country’s artisans and their exquisite products. 

The online event with more than 30,000 visitors, meticulously organised by the Selvedge team, enabled Bengal Muslin to connect with many global artisans and exchange ideas with them.

Bengal Muslin’s ‘new muslin’ products were on sale during the fair and these unique and intricate fabrics will continue to be available for sale on the Selvedge website until the 2022 event.