A year long project undertaken in the name of protecting Nanjing’s Intangible Cultural Heritage came to an exciting conclusion Thursday with the public revealing of a one-of-a-kind piece of fashion produced in Nanjing and the remote highlands of Scotland.
Nanjing Brocade, like much of the world’s ancient crafts, faces the challenge of raising interest among future generations in the skills required to maintain it. With the aim of safeguarding brocade for the long term, the Nanjing municipal government and the Nanjing Brocade Research Institute joined forces in 2015 with Nanjing based Scottish company SinoConnexion Ltd., to create a bespoke garment that could capture the imagination of people around the world.
In the first phase of the project, Scottish weaver Sam Goates spent a week in Nanjing working with the Brocade Institute on the design for the material. Only after coming to a better understanding of the highly complex methods that comprise brocade production was Goates able to finalise her Scottish influenced design that resembles shoals of herring reflected in colours reminiscent of the seas around Scotland.
In the second stage, the Brocade Institute prepped one of its traditional brocade looms for production of the fabric, a process that took 6 weeks in all. Another 3 months were required to weave the fabric, at the painstaking rate of 5cm per day.
Finally, in April of this year, the finished fabric was taken to Inverness in the highlands of Scotland, and placed into the hands of couturier Sandra Murray M.B.E., among whose previous work is a dress worn by Queen Elizabeth II for the opening of the Scottish parliament in 1999. In her unique method of working that involves only designing the garment after she has felt the material to be used in her own two hands, Murray spent the better part of a month to complete the final dress.
Back in Nanjing, the City Wall at Jiefang Men beside Jiming Temple and Xuanwu Lake was finally selected from a long list of possible locations for the public revealing. 30 members of the media turned out Thursday on what was possibly the hottest day of the year to see models wearing the Scottish Brocade and other examples of brocade garments parade along the iconic location.
The entire project has also been captured on video for a documentary programme that shall next be debuted online in the coming weeks. Through this innovative approach, the organisers hope to bring understanding of the craft to a world wide audience and inspire future generations to take up the mantle that is the preservation of Nanjing Brocade.