Woman making kantha

Kantha, a traditional craft originating in Bangladesh and West Bengal, embodies a rich history of resourcefulness and fine stitchwork. Through intricate rows of running stitch, salvaged cotton from saris and dhotis are brought together to find new life as un-wadded quilts. The word ‘kantha’ is derived from the Sanskrit term for 'rags', a reminder of the repurposed materials from which each piece is crafted.

For generations, women have passed down the art of kantha stitching within their families, creating a tradition that blends practicality with sentimental value. They will often develop their own signature stitch, making every kantha a unique expression of the maker's skill and creativity. The artisans take pride in their unique creations and that no two kanthas are ever alike, with designs ranging from geometric to highly decorative.

Traditionally, the women sit in circles, selecting the recycled saris themselves based on complementary pattern and colour, before hand-stitching each piece together. This process is slow and considered, the craft a labour of love. As they work, stories are shared and techniques are passed down from generation to generation.

The kantha coats, jackets, and quilts featured in the TOAST collection are crafted by small groups of women in West Bengal, who are supported by two Fair Trade cooperatives. TOAST has nurtured these partnership for 13 years, contributing, in a small way, to the preservation of this traditional technique.

“We’re proud to have been working with the same artisan groups for over 13 years now,” says head of Product Development Rachael Macnaghten. “Each piece is unique and has the mark of the individual maker, from the running stitches to the colour way they have chosen."

In styling kantha, TOAST honours the craft’s heritage by encouraging self-expression. The vibrant colours and unique patterns speak for themselves when paired with a more muted palette and simple silhouettes, but can also be contrasted with equally vivid tones and prints.

As demonstrated by our community, theTOAST kantha pieces are effortlessly multifunctional and can be reversed to show a different colour scheme and pattern. Longer line shapes work well across seasons, whilst shorter jackets can be layered under coats or worn alone in the spring and summer months - a tie on the inside provides added warmth when needed.

Join us at our London Shoreditch shop for The Art of Kantha Pop-Up until Friday 3 May.

Discover the TOAST kantha collection here.

Photography by Robbie Lawrence, Africa Daley-Clarke, Colette Meechan and Erica Kim.

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