Memoirs of our First Sourcing Trip

artisans ethical fashion Pakistan supply chain transparency

A thing of true beauty doesn’t just appear before us out of thin air. It starts as an idea first. Then, in places where life moves more slowly, it is crafted into reality with great care by someone’s two hands for us to enjoy, and this takes time.

It was on our first sourcing trip to Pakistan that this thought occurred to me. These days, there is very little that cannot be obtained moments after the desire strikes us - from an Amazon.com purchase to a drink order at Starbucks. But this is not always the case in all parts of the world, nor should it be. One day is particular sticks out in my mind as a true example of handicraft as an art.

In the morning, Shannon and I visited The Blue Pottery Institute in Multan, a small idyllic setting that feels much like a co-op, where artists hand paint designs on pottery in the rich blue and white colors for which the region is known. The large brick kiln where every piece is fired to a shine dates back to the 1950’s; it is among the most modern pieces of machinery on the property. The showroom faces a beautiful courtyard, where we found our driver performing one of his five daily prayers. Once he had finished praying, we drove a short few blocks away to a small alley where we were greeted by a friendly faced man. He led us past another kiln, this time much smaller and clearly built by hand, to the back courtyard. A lean, bearded man appearing to be in his 70’s was shaving down a soft clay tile, measuring its dimensions with a stick, and shaving again. It looked like hard work. His sons sat nearby, joking around and not paying too much attention to their visitors. Our driver explained that this man was shaping tile the same way it has been done for over a century. It takes about 45 minutes to craft a single tile. Then the artisan hand paints it, a task that takes another 3-6 hours, depending on the design. Our driver told us this kind of tile is only used to replace tiles in mosques and shrines, and is not in very high demand. Once this man passes away, it is unlikely that anyone in his family will carry on the legacy of his work.

Pakistan is a country full of a strong beauty, and so much potential – young artists, old traditions, new businesses, and no small amount of hope for a brighter, more stable future as a nation. I’m glad that I didn’t allow anything but my own experiences dictate my opinion of our first source country, and I look forward to a beautiful relationship between Victoria Road and our Pakistani friends.

Lolly Amons for Victoria Road

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