Bailey Hunter is the creative mind behind the brand Tigra Tigra that employs an Ahmedabad, an India–based women’s empowerment NGO cooperative to create silken and hand-embroidered mashroo textiles and then reimagines in her LA studio for the fashion-forward crowd. Her interest in politics and sociology is what drove her to seek out an alternative production mechanism for Tigra Tigra. The fabrications the women in Rama produce are the purpose of the brand. Hunter blends together the artisan-led techniques with Western culture and the resulting product is truly original all while remaining authentic to her creative vision.
Where are you from? What’s your background?
I was born in Florida. My mother’s family is from Peru and my father’s family is mixed Eastern European.
Tell me about the reason you launched Tigra Tigra?
I’ve always been very interested in aesthetics and design, but also in politics and sociology. I was looking for a way to integrate them.
What experiences in your life led you to running a business model like this?
While I was in college, a woman named Cathryn Collins who runs her own cashmere and textiles business in New York gave me a job doing a lot of design research and overall operations. It was a super small company and so I learned a lot from her. We worked very closely with Italian factories and artisans in India. This was really my first introduction on how to run a small business and how to make an artisan-based business work. It’s a lot about time and finding your place in the market and developing your own client base who understand your product and how and why it’s made.
Have you always been drawn to ancient and original textiles?
I’ve always been into handicraft and antiques for sure. There is so much of an identity and quality to masterful, handicraft work. It’s the ultimate luxury.
How did your relationship with Ahmedabad, the India–based women’s empowerment NGO cooperative begin?
I found amazing 19th century mashroo textiles from an antiques dealer and became very interested in using the material in my own design work – it’s a 500+ year old technique that is almost extinct. I started doing research to see where people are still producing it and found an amazing quality at a market in Ahmedabad. I traced it back to the weaving house in Patan who told me they work directly with an NGO based back in Ahmedabad. The NGO supports women working in the 2nd largest slum in India called Rama Pir No Tekra – so many of the women have the skill in their blood for hand-embroidery, appliqué, weaving, painting, etc – and that is where TIGRA TIGRA started.
Why was it important to you to maintain a business model that gave back to the communities involved?
It’s a mutually beneficial business model. The work the women in Rama produce is so unique and is what really sets apart TIGRA TIGRA from anything else. It’s not always easy but it is the whole purpose behind the brand.
With your production spread out across continents – how do you oversee this part of the process?
I go to the workshops twice a year to do development. I have a really amazing production team in Ahmedabad who I have been working with for almost four years now and we have developed an amazing line of communication and understanding.
When fabrics are completed they are sent to your studio in LA to become the modern wrap dresses and boxing pants you’ve become known for – what’s your team like in LA?
Our team is very small. We have two sample makers and a pattern maker. I also work with my friend, Chuck Grant, who I met while at Parsons to create a lot of the visuals behind the brand.
I love that you mix in modern street culture to your designs – it feels so fresh. What inspired this design element for the brand?
I’m focused more on individual style rather than fashion. I use a lot of the same utilitarian shapes in new fabrics. Classic American workwear jacket, a boxing pant, a basketball-inspired short, an oversized shirt, a simple robe, etc.
How often are you introducing new pieces?
We do a new launch with about 5 new styles every month or so, in very limited runs.
How do you see the brand growing? Do you wholesale?
We are going to start to do a very selective amount of wholesale. Only about 8 styles will be available for market. The more intricate and time-consuming pieces will be exclusive to our studio and web-store.
Where do you see Tigra Tigra in 5, 10 years?
I see TIGRA TIGRA expanding more into menswear – something I am very interested in as so many of the silhouettes are androgynous and oversized. I’m also focused on the beginning stages of doing a very visually-considered documentary addressing the more political/social state of the places we work. I don’t want to force anything, I think the secret is to always be continuing to evolve and expand organically.