Even in an ancient culture like India, old traditions can die out — or perhaps we should say “dye” out.
Last year Matt Bridier of Castaway Clothing met with Prasan Shah at the New York office of The Original Madras Trading Company, a multi-generational family-owned business that is truly one of the original madras makers of Chennai, the city formerly known as Madras. The OMTC made madras for Ralph Lauren as far back as the ’80s.
Bridier said he wanted something new (which turned out to be something old): a super cool, crisp and lightweight madras shirt. Shah said the best way to do that would be the very loose and open weave of hand-loomed madras. He had the equipment in the factory, the only question was whether there was anyone left who knew how to do it.
Turned out the sacred knowledge had indeed been passed down, and this spring Castaway unveiled the fruit of the collaboration. The long-sleeved shirts are yarn-dyed, as “bleeding madras” was considered asking a bit much from the consumer — namely, to always remember to wash the shirt separately or it would destroy a load of laundry. But the hand-looming looks and feels different, with tactile and visual character totally different from the machine-made fabrics we’re accustomed to wearing, says Bridier.
The shirts have been an instant hit, says Bridier. Here are the details:
Exclusively available for Castaway, We teamed up with our master shirt maker in Madras, India, to offer you our most authentic hand loomed, all cotton Indian madras shirts produced to authentic centuries old standards by cottage handloom artisans. The cotton is grown & spun into yarn just outside the city of Madras, then woven on hand-operated looms, creating colorful, lightweight madras plaids. Sizes: S-XXL $118
Kudos to Matt and brother Andrew, descendents of the Murray’s Toggery Shop family (maker of Nantucket Reds) for keeping this old-school tradition alive. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD