Global Textiles: Why Authenticity Is So Important

The idea of authenticity is important in the artisan craft space, especially when patterns and prints reminiscent of indigenous global textiles are popping up everywhere from your local big box store to boutiques claiming to be sourcing directly from artisans. People throw around the term “authentic,” but what does it really mean in the global textiles and home decor space?

What Does Authenticity Mean?

Authenticity happens when the design, production, tools and ideas all come from the international artisan maker’s hands and mind. In the case of Meridian and our collection of pillows featuring hand-crafted global textiles, our partners in over 20 countries – often small businesses, women’s cooperatives, non-profits, and family run organizations – work on every aspect of what you see. 

Here are some of our artisan partners in East Africa, who weave baskets and coasters for the Meridian collection. | Meridian
Here are some of our Fair Trade artisan partners in East Africa, who weave baskets and coasters for the Meridian collection.

Are Mass Reproductions Authentic?

Textiles reproduced by machines or printed in mass scale are copies of the originals, and by definition are not authentic. Printed textiles are not sourced directly from artisans or reputable dealers. Instead, companies purchase a small authentic sample or textile piece and use technology such as high resolution cameras and digital scanning to reproduce it. Often, they will make small tweaks so that they aren’t directly stealing an artisan’s work, but the original idea, pattern, and style are not their original intellectual property. With the rise of these digital printing technologies, something that traditionally may have taken an artisan several days, weeks, or even months or years to produce by hand can now take just a few hours.

Printed textiles – meaning, those textiles that are printed by machine and based on an indigenous pattern or design – are not sourced directly from artisan groups or reputable dealers specializing in authenticity. Prints are created by companies with funds to mass produce items such as printed fabric products and wallpaper, and in turn they are monetizing an indigenous textile whose original creator is not part of the deal.

The Authentic Difference

Each item Meridian features, on the other hand, is unique, and purchased directly from the maker or a respected international partner. We source our collection in the most direct way possible, often in-country, to ensure an item’s authenticity. (For more about our process for shopping abroad, see our post here.) The only true authentic global decor pieces are those that come straight from the makers. To abide by this idea, we care deeply about honoring Fair Trade rules and values, as well as the respect and dignity of our artisan partners.

A Meridian artisan partner weaves a traditional textile on a backstrap loom in Southern Mexico. Photo taken by our founder, Ashley Viola. | Meridian
A Meridian artisan partner weaves a traditional textile on a backstrap loom in Southern Mexico. Photo taken by our founder, Ashley Viola.

What You Can Do

If you are interested in positive and direct impact of an artisan’s economy, avoid products and textiles that are mass produced prints, or that come from companies that offer multiples of reproduced patterns such as fabric by the yard and wallpaper inspired by global textiles. Instead, seek out social enterprise companies that work directly and exclusively with artisan groups, and narrow your focus to authentic textiles sourced directly from their makers, such as our pillow collection. (You can read more about our artisan partners and their stories here.) Pay attention to a brand’s messaging and make sure they are working in a respectful manner. Just like The Bachelor, they should be in it for the right reasons. 

Two artisan women perform quality assessment and finishing touches in our partner's textile workshop in Rajasthan, India. | Meridian
Two artisan women perform quality assessment and finishing touches in our partner’s textile workshop in Rajasthan, India.

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