Vijendra Chhipa: Behind the episode

A textile printed by Vijendra Chhipa. (Image courtesy of Rebecca Louie)
Masks printed by Vijendra Chhipa. (Image courtesy of Rebecca Louie)

A resident of the textile town of Bagru, India, Vijendra Chhipa recounted that even the isolated nature of his community was within the spread of the recent surge of coronavirus cases in India.

“Ten days ago, it was very bad. We didn’t have oxygen and ventilators, and there was a very high spread of Covid patients,” Chhipa said over the phone.

Built upon its foundation of artisan block printing, Chhipa’s town specializes in the creation of colorful dyed and stamped fabrics that are used to make goods from scarves to cushion covers. To market and sell the products, Chhipa founded the company Bagru Textiles, and in recent years has expanded it internationally to supply fabric printed in Bagru to brands such as Molly Mahon in the United Kingdom and Block Shop in Los Angeles.

The textiles produced by the community go through a strenuous process of washing, dyeing and printing to be produced. And as they are entirely handmade with natural ingredients, each piece of fabric takes over a week each to produce. 

Despite the continued growth of the business, Bagru Textiles remains centered around its generational history and individuals at home. A tight-knit community, each household in the town specializes in a certain aspect of the production process. From carving the wooden blocks to coloring the fabric, each specific skill set has been passed down through familial lineage for decades and plays a unique role in the creation of a textile.

“Every family and every part of the printing process is very special to the community,” Chhipa said.

However, this all was put to the test during this past year of the pandemic, and the recent surge in its cases and fatalities in India. Even towns distanced from major urban hotspots, such as Bagru, have felt the strain of the pandemic, from small outbreaks of cases to a lack of medical resources. 

Businesses such as Bagru Textiles, also experienced hardships, such as a decrease in profits due to a loss of in-person tourism and shopping, and an overall lack of accessibility to materials.

“We cannot go to the local market in cities because they are closed, so only our online business has continued. So our production is going very slowly,” Chhipa said.

Despite this challenge, Chhipa still has hope for brighter days to come and sees economic recovery in the near future.

“I think after two years, our business will boom and we will have more success,” Chhipa said.

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