We were very fortunate to have a rare visit inside the Anokhi village factory, a block printing village established in 1970 to promote the art of block printing. Today the company’s head designer is of Western origin, having married into the family, and this is reflected in the style of the company’s more recent collections. Anokhi is best known in this country for it’s partnership with the high street store EAST, and in the past supplied Monsoon. When I got home I found that some of my old Monsoon clothes were indeed likely to have started life here. By the end of my visit to Jaipur, I felt quite familiar with the brand look, and could quite easily identify pieces. It takes approximately one year for a garment to make it from production to sale in the UK, and the company are quite understandably very protective of their designs, hence the rarity of outside visitors.
The complex itself was a very peaceful environment with a lovely garden in the middle. The working hours were sociable, and the 350 employees are all provided lunch made with produce grown in the factory grounds. The employees’ children have free education, and we visited a pre-school onsite.
Dyed fabric is bought in from local villages, and screen printing runs are done on site. Block printing test runs are done here, but the blocks are packed up and the work outsourced to villages such as Bagru. Blocks are made from shisham wood, otherwise known as Indian rosewood. The block printing is done in a large gazebo, and it is too damp in monsoon season to work. Screen printing is done with large screens operated by men in pairs. Alternate repeats are printed to avoid smudging the pattern, using registration notches on the table edge. The men then move back to the beginning to print the remaining repeats.
The company is very water conscious as there is a critical water shortage in Jaipur. The water is collected in Monsoon season, and typically filtered and reused seven times before being used to water bushes in the garden.