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Excursions 1/13/17- Kenzie Schultz

The days have been flying by here in India. Today was a particularly fun time with the agenda full of entertainment. We started off the day (“sleeping in” a bit) and traveling to a gated community that was of higher status. We came to a stop and got off at the bus at a place called Craft Village. Here, we were given an introduction about the area we were soon to enter. The whole goal of this space was to encourage different types of craft and give innovation to each work as individualized pieces. There were many different kinds of work being done here and one was not limited to their creation. Another large introduction piece dealt with sustainability and how craft improves this idea. Our introductory gave us information on the sustainability of the buildings as well as the products that were being made and how their traditions kept sustainable nature. kantha

Once we were familiarized with the setting, we got down to embroidery business. We were given a brief introduction on how the craft started, which was mainly layers of used fabric, put together to make quilt like structures. “Kantha” was the type of embroidery we learned to stitch which was very specific, not to mention difficult. The whole goal was to stitch small to medium running stitches, making a picture to tell a story. After creating the picture and making sure to only puncture the top layer of fabric, not going through both, you use white thread to fill in gaps and outline your picture, going through both layers. Sound easy? It was far from.

After a full day of practice, we had a little award ceremony. Each of us received a certificate for the workshop, along with a handmade painting as a bonus. After this daily event came to a close, I can recap on how this was such a great learning experience. This special craft is a dying one, like most across India. From a local’s perspective, this type of embroidery not only is beautiful, it means something on a spiritual level. When a child is born, they want to make sure the baby is not harmed with new, scratchy or stiff fabric so these quilts are made from soft, worn out cloths. As I was making my own embroidery, I didn’t think to tell a story or focus on doing it just right, where as someone who is learning the craft to pass it down along their family line would probably pay a lot more attention to detail and produce something that was very meaningful to them rather than just a design they enjoyed. I feel very lucky to have been taught something like this, knowing how important it is to help keep craft work alive. quilt

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January 15 Excursions-Alexis Jenson

Our last day in India started off with visiting the DLF Emporio mall in New Delhi. Even though many of us were tired and ready to go home, we were excited to see what this luxury mall was like. Although many of the stores within the mall are the same as stores we have in America, the mall was also full of Indian designers, and cute little restaurants. I made a beeline for Anita Dongre’s store, and the Vanilla Moon store (which was one of the brands we saw being manufactured at the Vanilla Moon shoe factory.) I also made a stop at the Forever21 within the mall because I was curious to see if the products they sold there were the same or different than the US. Even though the products were more or less the same, I could see how they had arranged and outfitted the clothes differently to fit with Indian styles. img_2296

After leaving the Emporio, we stopped at a small lunch place that was super crowded and super packed! The experience was pretty stressful for all of us, and we were somewhat thankful to get on the bus.

We ended our night at the home of Sushil and Neelam Bansal, Sushil is a guide that was with us at the beginning of our trip. Neelam, his wife, welcomed us with open arms and there we enjoyed a relaxing and fun night. We got henna and played Tambola (basically Indian bingo.) It was the perfect end to the trip.

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The Influence of Bollywood and Dance Forms on Fashion Adrianah Trevino-Gartner, SCU ’18

Bollywood is known to be one of the largest film industries in Indian culture that is filled with celebrities, fashion, and cinemas. This term combined the essence of Hollywood and gave origin to the homeland of productions based in a city named Bombay, now formally known as Mumbai. The creation of theatrical productions and movies act as a powerful vehicle for the portrayal of Indian culture to communicate the society, trends, education, and politics. Bollywood productions have an impact on not only in India’s culture and dress, but also provides a global influence in the fashion industry as a whole.

For the famous actors and actresses that star in new movies wearing extravagant clothing, the demand for similar garments are wanted by India’s ready to wear industry, and even those that request to have the outfits tailored want a replica. Productions of favorite garments, such as sarees, salwar kameez, achkans, and lehengas are designs that aspire from Bollywood films. The sari is the most popular ethnic garment known in India and to outside cultures. This garment is worn by women and is a stylized blouse by draping it over the body in various ways.

Dancing and singing is a common theme throughout Bollywood films. Dance has been a celebrated, and ancient cultural tradition among Indian culture. While the dance forms express emotion, it tells a story for the audience through the movement and energy the actor brings, while the clothing serves as a visual appeal to emphasize the event or occasion taking place during the dance. It is common to see elaborate traditional clothing to historical costumes like at weddings and festivals. There are many forms of classic dance to Indian tradition, which includes Bharatanatyam, Manipuri, Kuchipudi, and Odissi.

Bollywood and various dance forms greatly influences the native people that live in India. From the inspiration of elaborate garment pieces in movies to create productions in the retail setting, to even traveling across the globe to the American culture; there has been a movement of Indian-inspired designs, patterns, and embellishments that span the globe to create a wider variety of fashion sense in the industry.

Researching the impact of dance and Bollywood has broadened my knowledge of the various influence that creates such a unique culture. The information I had learned brought interesting facts of the Indian culture. From evaluating the design perspective of the clothing, I find that color and detailing is an important part in creating the visual appeal of Indian clothing. I don’t find it surprising that the influence of celebrities can have an impact on the society’s demand for the trending clothes, but I admire the consistency in keeping the traditional clothing alive. The design aesthetics that are created and exhibited by the indigenous people gives the importance of their traditional dress that others can see and appreciate. With this knowledge in mind, I can take a moment to recognize and value on one of the many origins of creative apparel.

Bollywood dancers doing dance routine on set
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Rosenberg, M. (n.d.). Bollywood: India’s Movie Industry Known as Bollywood. Retrieved from http://geography.about.com/od/culturalgeography/a/bollywood.htm
One of the traditional forms of dance: Odissi 
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Indian Dance Forms. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://blessingsonthenet.com/indianculture/type/14/indian-dance-forms

References

 Eldridge, A. (n.d.). In Encyclopædia Britannica online. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/list/6-classical-dances-of-india

Gusain, V. S. (2014). Influence of Bollywood Clothing on Indian Fashion. [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@vikasSgusain/influence-of-bollywood-clothing-on-indian-fashion-66c26d6a5722#.52eo78y5l

Influence of Bollywood Cinema on Fashion. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://strandofsilk.com/indian-fashion-blog/driven-curiosity/influence-bollywood-cinema-fashion

The Influence of Bollywood on Indian Fashion. (n.d.). [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.onlinefashionlife.com/influence-of-bollywood-on-indian-fashion/

Henna

In my preparations for India, one of the things I barely thought about was the practice of henna. However, once we arrived, it was hard to ignore its presence. From what I have heard in passing as well as what my Indian-born friend Amrita told me, it is at its most intricate for weddings and there are a multitude of designs that can be achieved. Dr. Anupama also informed us how it is traditionally done on the palm of the hand rather than just the top of the hand, and the longer it stayed on meant the better the wife would be as her skin indicated she was a hard worker. I thought this was interesting as it did not seem as though the pigmentation of the skin had anything to do with the henna staying, rather the hardness or softness. Another observation I made was how women typically have henna on the skin, but there were quite a few men spotted with henna in their hair, turning it a brilliant red or burgundy.

I had henna done two different times in India: first when we went into the Chowki Dhani, just on the top of my left hand and the process was extremely fast. The women who were doing it did not seem extremely happy to be doing it, likely as we were not allowed to tip them, but it was amazing to see them think of a design and work so quickly. It was very thick and took quite a while to dry, but I was happy with it nevertheless.

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First henna done-sort of in the shape of a peacock!

Other than the men that we spotted who had it in their hair, the second time I witnessed henna being done was on my roommate for the trip, Emma-Rose, when we went to the Dilli Haat Food & Craft Bazaar on our second to last day. They charged 200, 300 or 500 rupees depending on how far up the arm the individual wanted, and she chose the 200. This time the henna was done much more intricately and the process took a bit longer, therefore yielding phenomenal results. Emma was thrilled and I was a little envious that I had just spent the last of my cash and could not get it done as well.

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Emma’s henna that was done at the Food & Craft Bazaar

However, on the next day (our last day!), henna was offered to all of us at Mr. Sushil’s house. I did not catch the man’s name that worked his magic, but his work on us was absolutely amazing. He did not repeat one design even though almost all our group got it done, which was very impressive. This time around I did the tops of both hands, and while they are similar still they do not mirror each other exactly, making it that much more interesting to look at.

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The henna drying: just showing how different all of ours ended up being.

Overall, the art of henna is something that will forever blow me away. I cannot even fathom the amount of artistic effort put behind it, and it always seems to flow so naturally from the person doing it. The design possibilities seem endless, and I am so happy I could take proof of India away with me. Although it will eventually fade, I will never forget the craft that henna is and may even try my hand at it if the opportunity presents itself.

The Art of Merchandising

Katie Urban

St. Catherine University ‘17

Friday, January 17, 2017

Merchandising is a tactic used by retailers to welcome and entice customers to enter a store and look around in the hopes that they will make a purchase. Merchandising involves the presentation of merchandise whether it is on a mannequin in a store window display or the way products are arranged on a rack or a shelf. During my time in India I noticed various similarities and differences in the way merchandise is displayed compared to the way it is done in the United States.

During visits to local markets and street vendors, I observed crowded merchandising similar to that of a garage sale. Products were stacked on top of each other in piles. In order to view the items one would have to scavenge through the multiple piles in the hopes of finding something special. However, the sales person appeared to find each item with ease. By simply describing what you were looking for, the sales person would turn around and present you with various options that matched your description. The merchandise was also typically not marked with a price tag of any kind. In order to know the price of the item, you would have to ask the sales person. They would take a look at the item and then come up with a price. At these small shops prices were usually negotiable if you were willing to haggle. When it came to finding an item or knowing the price of an unmarked item, I was amazed at the organized chaos of these street vendors.

The experience was quite different when visiting more established boutiques and retailers in mall settings. The merchandising in these shops was similar to that of the United States. Clothing would be arranged on racks lined along the walls. In some cases the clothing would be arranged by color as can be seen in small boutique shops in the United States. In other cases the brightly colored clothing would be intertwined creating a bright and lively atmosphere. Home décor was merchandised in a similar manner. Color coordinated items would be shown together to create a visual theme or story to appeal to the consumers aesthetic style. In most cases the prices of products were marked and non-negotiable. I found the shopping experiences in these types of shops to be more within my comfort zone and familiar to what I am used to in the United States.

No matter where you are in the world, the purpose of merchandising remains the same: to encourage customers to make a purchase. Merchandising creates an experience for the consumer. My experiences of shopping in India varied from being overwhelmed by the amount of merchandise to being amazed by the beautiful colors and elaborate details of each product.  What I learned from this experience is that there is no right or wrong way to merchandise, but rather merchandising is an art used to appeal to customer.

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Street vendors along the road. 
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Colorful clothing in a boutique.

January 15th Excursions, Emma-Rose Nickles ’18

January 15th was our last day in India and it was truly bittersweet. Many of the students on the trip, including myself, are missing their family, friends, and most importantly “American food”. We are all looking forward to sleeping in our own beds and getting back on our normal sleep schedule. What we are not looking forward to is the journey back home. Many of us today were discussing how much we are dreading spending another 17 hours on an airplane. However, these conversations subsided in the evening of our last day in India when were welcomed into the home of Sushil and Neelam Bansal, a guide that was with us for the first portion of our trip and his wife. Mrs. Bansal invited us to their home for traditional Indian games, food, and hennas. It was absolutely the perfect way to close this trip. India has such a rich culture and we were given one last reminder of that at the Bansal’s home. We approached their home to see it was decorated with fresh carnations strung along the outside of the home. One of our professor’s, Dr. Anu, informed us that flowers strung in this way are meant as a symbol of welcoming. Mrs. Bansal met us at the door and placed red dots on our foreheads and beaded bracelets on our wrists. We entered the home barefoot and were offered drinks and snacks. We spent the better part of the night at their home playing games, receiving henna tattoos on our hands, and experiencing a traditional Indian dinner. It was by far the best Indian food we had the whole trip.

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I originally interpreted this evening at Mr. and Mrs. Bansal’s home as being quite a burden for them simply because there are 23 of us on this trip. That is a lot of mouths to feed. However, Dr. Anu explained that in Indian culture, the guest is perceived as a god, it is not perceived as a burden. Learning about this aspect of Indian culture and seeing how excited Mrs. Bansal was to have us all their changed my interpretation. I felt welcomed and very humbled that she was so happy to invite us into their home.

I feel the entire experience of our study abroad trip in India made me a more well-rounded person. My eyes have been opened to a new culture and also to so many new aspects of the fashion industry. At this point in the trip we have all become quite close, this time has allowed for our relationships with each other to grow. I will remember sitting in the living room of the Bansal’s home with 20 of my classmates and friends in India, drinking masala chai tea and braiding each other’s hair, a pastime we picked up on the bus. The last night we spent in India is something I will hold onto as one of my favorite memories of our time together. After our evening at the Bansal’s home, we left for the airport to begin our journey home.

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Temple Visit- January 12th Reflection Emma-Rose Nickles ’18

  So far on this 2017 J-term trip to India the most fascinating things I have seen so far have been the temples. We visited the Iskom Temple in Deli our first day in the country and it was an enthralling experience. The Iskom Temple in particular was my favorite temple to visit. The Iskom Temple sits on top of a hill in New Deli. It is an open air building with many levels and alcoves. The architecture is so unique. The experience of walking barefoot up marble steps into the temple was so calming. Our class entered wide doors to see large motifs and artwork placed around the room. People chanting and playing music echoed from the high ceiling and the smell of incense filled the air. People sat on rugs and meditated. It was unlike any other religious practice I’ve ever seen.

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I was fascinated by the Hindu temple which was open to the public with so many people coming together to practice the beliefs they all share. What I saw was a place for people to escape the chaotic streets of Deli and find a sense of calm and center. Additionally, this temple could serve as a safe place for people who have felt they don’t fit it with people around them who practice a different religion. Everyone who experienced the Iskom Temple with me seemed to be very appreciative of the experience. My classmates were amazed and mystified by what they saw. I heard one student explain her experience as “pure” which I thought was an excellent explanation of my emotional response to this experience.

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The part of this venture I particularly liked was that I was able to experience a religious practice that was so different from anything I have ever witnessed, in another part of the world. It was such a great opportunity to gain perspective on another religion. I feel experiences like these make people more well-rounded and understanding of cultures different than your own.

Commercial Craftsmanship

Briana Turnbull

January 14th

This morning we journeyed through Delhi, winding our way in a bus through impossibly narrow streets with noisy and unpredictable traffic, to reach the small factory of Sonica Sarna Design. Sonica met us there and began the visit with a short lecture on her philosophy of ethical design and production.

Basically, Sonica works as an ethical sourcing agent for companies and designers. She trains artisans around India to modernize and commercialize their craft and then steers customers toward sourcing the hand made goods. She works with companies like Lee, Wrangler, and Schwiing, among others.

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A bag sourced by Sonica Sarna that utilizes handwoven ikat fabric.

She explained that not all of the companies she works with are extremely interested in the ethics of sourcing these goods but that if she can provide them with beautiful materials that they can’t find elsewhere then they will choose to source ethically. Her focus is on training artisans to change their craft enough that it can be applicable to a wider market. Helping them to design things that are commercial makes it possible for them to be employed while they continue living in their villages and creating crafts that many of them spent a lifetime learning.

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A beautiful handwoven scarf for the modern consumer. The textile was designed and sourced by Sonica Sarna.

I think this business model is a genius way to employ artisans and keep dying crafts alive, but there are others who do not interpret it in the same way. Another student interpreted this model as problematic because she felt that changing the artisans craft by incorporating untraditional motifs, colors, and designs doesn’t actually preserve traditional Indian craft, it just westernizes it. Others wondered if the craft will still die with the next generation because the artisans now make enough money to send their children off to college where they can pursue other careers.

While I found these concerns to be very interesting I still think that this business model is a positive thing. Regardless of whether or not the end product looks traditional or dies off in the future, the artisans are currently able to practice the crafts that they have dedicated their lives to learning and earn fair wages doing it, all while remaining in their villages. Would it really be better to let the craft die away completely than to help them to commercialize it for a modern consumer?

Check out Sonica Sarna Designs online and decide for yourself.

Packing to go home

The trip to India was an experience. I had never been to a different country before, so going to India was a drastic change. On the trip I was more shocked that the country is not diverse at all. I had a great time but often felt out of place based on the stares I received. This trip was a little stressful for me because I’m not use to being in unfamiliar places. That stress combined with the stress of all the daily activities I felt overwhelm. This made me excited to go back home because I was going back to the life I’m use to. So I started packing in advance because we stay at two hotels where we left after one day. So I was already packed to go home two days before January 16th. When we got to our finial hotel I only took out a few things I needed and the rest I left in my suitcase. January 16th I woke up an hour before the bus came to the hotel. I started to pack the little things I took out of my suitcase. I also made sure all my glasses were nicely wrapped and placed in between my clothes to ensure they will not brake during the flight. I made sure that I double-checked the bathroom and bedroom to ensure I did not leave anything. I locked my check in bag after I double-checked everything. At the time I was packing I felt excited and ready to go home. I felt accomplished and that I had learned a lot about others as well as myself. This was a great experience even though it was hard at times.

Stolen Childhood

Written by Stephanie Herr SCU ’17

India is labeled as a hotbed for child labor with nearly ¼ of child laborers coming from India alone when looking at child labor worldwide (B., 2015). Child labor can be defined as “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical-mental development” (Srivastava, 2011). Child laborers from India are typically found working in the agriculture, fashion, or tourist industry and are between 5 and 14 years old (Zweynert, 2015). Children from rural areas are more likely to be child laborers than children from the cities; this creates a great education disparity between rural children and children from the cities because kids who work are taken out of school.

It’s important to know about child labor before going to India because many child laborers have probably made a piece of clothing we own or have owned. Not only that but many well-known U.S. companies like Hanes, Puma, and Wal-Mart have employed children 11 years old or younger to sew clothing being sold in Western countries (The National Labor Committee, 2006). The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) found that parents are lied to about working and pay conditions for their children in factories by factory recruiters. Parents are told that their children will be well-paid and will work in a good environment when in reality the work conditions amount to some of the worst forms of child labor and have been called modern day slavery (Moulds, 2016). Parents also face the difficulty of forcing their children to work against their own will to pay off family debt they can’t afford to pay off themselves.

Girls working in clothing factoryThe photo above shows young girls working in a clothing factory. As you can see there’s not a lot of room work.

This topic goes beyond the fashion industry when visiting India because child laborers can be found working by the tourist attractions we will be visiting or near the hotels we will be staying at. This topic will help me understand the culture that exists in India when it comes to child labor and what steps are and aren’t being taken to stop this practice. The most interesting points have been how this is still an ongoing problem, how parents are convinced that this is a better future for their children (if they come from poverty), and how making money is more important than human rights for children.

image titleThe photo above shows a young boy working as a street vendor selling hot drinks.

The photo above shows young child laborers collecting rocks which will be transported using the woven basket.

Works Cited

B., D. (2015, November 10). Child Labor in India: a Poverty of Schools? Retrieved from POVERTIES: http://www.poverties.org/blog/child-labour-in-india

Moulds, J. (2016). Child labour in the fashion supply chain. Retrieved from Shorthand: https://labs.theguardian.com/unicef-child-labour/

Srivastava, K. (2011). Child labour issues and challenges. Industrial Psychiatry Journal, 1-3.

The National Labor Committee. (2006). Child Labor is Back: Children Are Again Sewing Clothing for Major U.S. Companies. New York, New York: National Labor Committee.

Wilson, Lou. (Photographer). (2008, April 2). Child Labor Still The Norm. Retrieved from http://www.indiamike.com/india-images/pictures/child-labor-still-norm

Zweynert, A. (2015, June 10). 5 facts about chold labour. Retrieved from Thomson Reuters Foundation: http://news.trust.org/slideshow/?id=9315bfd7-5134-4b07-8980-31c53fcd044a