What Kantha Means To Us

You may have seen the word ‘Kantha’ used in our Mae Dress and Mattie Blouse, but do you know why this stitch is so special? Kantha embroidery existed long, long before Souk Indigo—over 500 years—and we hope that it sustains as long as textiles are made! Kantha is very special to us and the artisans who craft our clothing, so we wanted to share more on its history and why we personally value one of India’s oldest forms of embroidery.

Mae Kantha dress - hand embroidered

 Its first known uses in India were actually Bengali women’s way of upcycling clothing and textiles to give them new life, often turning them into warm quilts for their families. ‘Kantha’ means ‘rags’ in Sanskrit, and its technique—a running stitch—is still passed from mothers to daughters today. Being practiced mostly by women in rural communities in West Bengal, recognition of the craft has had its ups and downs. But there are so many reasons to keep Kantha alive. 


Over the years, women have created their own variations on the stitch, and it has since shown up in a myriad of ways on clothing and textiles. The collar and hem of our embroidered Mae kantha dress is made up of this classic stitch, embellishing the ikat cotton.

The stitch is a technique you’ve probably seen, but perhaps haven’t thought much about. It is the building block for many one of a kind textiles. Even more than the unique and intricate designs that can be created with it, there is a celebration of women, their communities, India’s culture and history, and so so much more all behind it.

Being used and created by women, and then passed down for generations, Kantha represents a familial connection. It’s very special to be able to then pass it along to the wearer, who can appreciate its beauty and even pass it on by sharing it with other women in their lives. Our models, mother and daughter Lisa and Amy, are shown here wearing our two Souk Indigo pieces that were made to pay homage to this tradition and the women behind it.

With its origins as a method of recycling and ultimately preserving textiles, Kantha also represents a mindful approach to goods—where one recognizes the utility a piece has beyond its first purpose and the many roles it can play. We know how far we have, especially in the US, strayed from this type of attitude toward clothing and goods. 

We hope that women who purchase goods made with hand-embroidered Kantha acknowledge that aspect of its history, and are just as mindful in return. We want women everywhere to wear clothing with as much meaning as Kantha holds, and hope these timeless pieces are shared and passed down among families.

As long as textiles are designed and handmade using Kantha, this 500-year old technique will live on, preserving with it the histories of all of the women who used it to warm, comfort, protect and adorn their families. It preserves the memories stitched into each textile before it—as traditional kantha always represented the story of the maker—and as well as the new ones created by the artists that produce them still today. 

Our clothing is not only made more beautiful because of Kantha, but is our way to pay homage to not only the embroiderers that make each Souk Indigo piece now… But the generations before them that paved the way for its modern day use

2 comments

Thank you for taking an interest in our brand. We are globally inspired and strive to include a diverse appreciation for many cultures. Please do check out our India photoshoot and Indian model on the website and on social media @souk_indigo

Souk Indigo December 31, 2019

Interesting to have non Indian models for ethnic Indian fabric🤔

Mina December 31, 2019

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