Hi everyone! I hope you’re doing well! You may recall when I told you I was planning a trip to Mallorca for the XTANT Heritage Textiles gathering, exhibition, and educational retreat. I know I shared some excitement about it on Instagram too, but I wanted to give you a more detailed update today with a special interview with the founders.

XTANT was organized by textile experts Kavita Parmar and Marcella Echavarria with the support of the government of Mallorca. It’s an annual event that brings together over 60 artists, master craftspeople, designers, and journalists from all over the world to celebrate heritage textiles. I was so lucky to be invited as one of their special guests on a recent press trip.

I was joined by two other amazing women, Editor Lucy Upward from COVER magazine and Travel and Lifestyle Photographer, Agata Dimmich from Passion Shake – Agata being a good friend of mine for years. We were truly the “three amigos” during our time there, and we had an absolute blast sharing, bonding, roaming, and learning together.

Mallorca is such a magical island, and it was the perfect setting for XTANT. We spent our days exploring XTANT, and our nights sharing our experiences from each magical day. It was an incredibly inspiring and enriching experience, and I can’t wait to go back in 2024. By the way, I’ve saved all of my Instagram stories and videos from the trip to a highlight called XTANT on Insta account HERE, so be sure to check them out if you missed them.

Now dear friends, would you like to meet Kavita and Marcella more personally and learn about XTANT? Come with me…

An Interview with the Founders of XTANT: The Event That Can Change the Way We Think About Textiles

“No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.”

— Sir David Frederick Attenborough

Both Kavita and Marcella are accomplished businesswomen. They have both spent the past 20 years exploring the world of heritage textiles, pieces that are largely hidden from the mainstream but still influence it, whether people are aware of it or not. Marcella is also a marketing expert who teaches online classes at Selvedge magazine. Her next class, called “Crafting Your Brand,” will take place in October for one week online.

Despite their success, both ladies are down-to-earth and passionate about their work. You could tell that they cared about XTANT and that it wasn’t just a commercial enterprise. It was a genuine passion project that was evident from the moment you met them and experienced the first day of the event.

In 2020, these passionate ladies launched and curated their first global gathering and exhibition of heritage textiles, ancient techniques, master craftspeople, and passionate creatives in Mexico City. They called it TEXTO. Then the pandemic hit which put the project on ice.

As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic posed no threat, they resumed planning their gathering in Palma, Mallorca and that’s when XTANT was born.

XTANT encourages all heritage textile enthusiasts and makers to participant – to share their work and unique stories, explain their processes, and sell their pieces in the marketplace. Some makers also give lectures and teach workshops. I took a workshop on Indian embroidery by a young master, Raasleela. Everyone seemed energized and open, ready to talk about even the uncomfortable topics in the design industry. During lectures and tours, we discussed the importance of consumers being more mindful about where and how products are made. We talked about the need to think more and consume less. XTANT was one of those gatherings where real conversations felt possible.

This year, I was invited to attend as a journalist so I could report on the event later if I found it inspiring and worthy of sharing. Of course, I did! I shared my entire journey live on Instagram, in my Stories, and on my Insta grid. However, I wanted to share even more here on decor8, so I decided to interview the inspiring founders of XTANT so you could get to know more about how XTANT came to be and what goals they have for this creative gathering, among other things.

I loved the raw, open culture there and appreciated the organic, natural, and peaceful vibe that Kavita and Marcella created at XTANT. I also respected their willingness to cut through the “easy” conversations and talk about the tough issues – it was refreshing. Kavita warmly, yet passionately, explained during the opening day press tour that we must be much more mindful about our shopping habits and remember that our actions have consequences as consumers. She walked the talk by wearing linen and handmade clothing herself.

All attendees were encouraged to gather information, learn, and engage with one another in a unique and inspiring non-fair format. Most of the event took place during the second week, after the retreat and education week in a nearby Finca. The second week was where the public could attend and gather at Can Vivot in central Palma, where you could find inspiring lectures, tours, music, and a marketplace for shopping directly from the makers. In other parts of the city at Can Balaguer and Casa Museo Can Marques, you could take XTANT workshops or view works on display.

Ready to learn more about XTANT directly from the founders? Let’s begin…

Holly : Describe XTANT for decor8 readers in a few sentences…

Kavita & Marcella: Sure! XTANT is a global gathering of textile lovers who are passionate about excellence in craft, sustainability, and the preservation of ancestral textile know-how. This growing interdisciplinary community comes together once a year on the island of Mallorca during the first two weeks of May to strengthen their passion and commitment by learning, sharing, and building physical experiential spaces in heritage buildings around Palma. The 5-day festival is open to the public and features talks, roundtable discussions, exhibitions, workshops, and a market where you can meet the makers. It is a must-attend event for any textile enthusiast.

Holly: How did XTANT come to be?

Marcella: XTANT is the result of our careers. We got tired of complaining about the failing fashion system and took action starting from the source: heritage textiles.

Kavita: I remember being very inspired by an interview of Sir David Frederick Attenborough where he said, “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced”

We set out to create an educational, experiential, and ephemeral concept that would showcase the world of heritage textiles in a way that would leave no one indifferent. Our goal was to bring together all of the amazing people and projects that we have had the privilege of working with from all over the world, to inspire each other, share knowledge, and collaborate in building a space where we could invite the public to experience the beauty of the handmade.

Holly: Tell me why heritage textiles and craft became became such a passion and focus in the first place?

Marcella:  Our focus is on providing a platform for master textile artisans, some of whom are among the last of their generations. We aim to celebrate them as the rock stars they are, while elevating their work and knowledge to the level of modern art. For us, textiles are texts that represent the next frontier of modern art.

XTANT comes from the word “extant,” which means “still in existence, not extinct or destroyed or lost.” It is a tabula rasa, a white canvas, a fresh piece of paper. We use it to bring a new vision and content to the very old trade of heritage textiles.

Textiles are a language. In the past, humans used warp and weft before words existed. Threads were used to express individuality, status, beliefs, communities, and above all, diversity. Textiles are texts and sources of information; they contain codes and signs that speak of roots, continuity, and strength.

We believe that the language of heritage textiles is still alive and vibrant. It is hidden from the mainstream, sometimes even used as a pretty decoy, but mostly dismissed as inconsequential and something unscalable, hence irrelevant. However, it is the exact opposite; heritage textiles are very relevant and are at the perfect scale: the human scale.

Kavita: I was lucky to start my career in heritage textiles, and I am just as passionate about them as Marcella is. We have both witnessed the loss of precious indigenous know-how in most craft communities due to the industrialization of craft, especially in the last two decades. As “artisan made” and “craft” become buzzwords in the fashion industry, the impact is even worse. Under the pressure of faster, cheaper design and the influence of current trends, we are losing both the excellence and the diversity of local expression. It was urgent to shine a light on this situation and attract the best talent to help preserve this knowledge for future generations.

Holly: What is your dream for XTANT in the future?

Marcella: To build a strong global community of heritage textile enthusiasts united by the principles of generosity, excellence, and curiosity.

Kavita: I dream of XTANT becoming a shared community space where we can come together to recharge, be a beacon of hope for human values, and create a more just and equitable world.

Holly: Will textiles remain the focus of XTANT or will it expand to ceramics, jewelry, etc.?

Marcella: Textiles is a vast subject, and it will remain our focus. We will not be expanding into other areas. XTANT is, at its core, an educational project that uses textiles as a metaphor to explore urgent issues such as scale, cultural identity, climate change, and sustainability in all their facets and definitions.

Kavita: Textiles encompass a myriad of craft expressions, from basketry to surface design, from art to clothing to home decor to accessories. We feel we still have much to explore in this vast field. However, hand-braided and hand-woven jewelry made with various fibers are already very much included in our scope. 

Holly: Why did you select Palma, Mallorca as the location?

Marcella: With the support of the government of Mallorca,  XTANT is turning Palma into a destination for all textile enthusiasts, collectors, architects, interior designers, makers and fibre artists.

Kavita: The original plan was to have two nomadic events and travel the world with them. The first event, TEXTO, took place in February 2020 in Mexico City and was a huge success. Then, the world came to a stop. We were inundated with supportive and beautiful emails and messages from everyone who attended, sharing how the experience had impacted them.

Spain, where I live, made the most sense for our second event, both due to travel restrictions and because it is a hub for a growing international creative community interested in sustainability and alternative ways of living. The local government of Palma also offered support by allowing us to use historic buildings as venues. Our relationship with them has only strengthened since then.

Holly: Will XTANT travel to other cities or continue to be based only in Palma?

Marcella: XTANT will have its base in Mallorca and will add a nomadic event called XTANT Edit in the fall. 

Kavita: We are committed to a yearly global gathering in Mallorca every May, and we are being invited to hold sister events in many different cities around the globe.

Holly: What were some personal highlights for you from XTANT 2023 that you’ll not soon forget?

Marcella: I was amazed by how some artisans from the community presented their first art pieces. Wow! I was also impressed by the number of visitors who came all the way from Japan, Korea, Australia, Chile, and other countries, all with open hearts and unique ideas about how to experience XTANT. I now see XTANT as a pilgrimage, two weeks of the year destined for magic and meaning.

Kavita: The highlight for me was the heightened sense of community that emerged and made us all feel very much at home.

Holly: If you could own one item from XTANT by any of your makers, what would your dream piece be?

Marcella: So many! My dream piece is The Sun from Adrian Pepe. I also consider other dream pieces to be an embroidery by Clara Saldarriaga, a dress from Raasleela, and a tapestry from Kelgwo.

Kavita: I was lucky to get my hands on one of the first artworks by Shamji Vankar, a 7th generation artisan, made specifically for this edition of XTANT. This piece was his first foray into art which makes it all the more special to me. 

Holly: Who are some of the people you’d love to see exhibit in the future at XTANT?

Marcella: We are very interested in the intersection of art and craft. We would love to see more artists and artisans presenting their work as art.

Kavita: More artists and artisans from the continent of Africa, which we feel remains underrepresented, and artists like Cecilia Vicuña are on our wish list. 

Holly: What do you think makes XTANT so special?

Marcella: What makes XTANT special is its uniqueness. Every year, we explore a different topic and create a new experience that is both fun and surprising. This is what makes it special: it unveils itself in the process.

Kavita: XTANT isn’t a fair, it’s a celebration and a festival of the handmade, built with hope and joy for us, and all who participate and visit, to share our stories, joy, and passion for textiles.

Holly: And why should we visit XTANT in 2024?

Marcella & Kavita : Because magic happens… For artists: You will find your tribe and rekindle your passion. For buyers: It is the place to find treasures, the finest and most authentic crafts, and meet the creative and inspiring people who make them. For the public: Here, you will witness the extraordinary in abundance and have an unforgettable experience.

XTANT Roots, 2024 will be held in Palma from the May 9-13,  2024. We hope to see you all there. 

You may follow XTANT on Instagram or visit their website for more information.

(Photography in collage: Holly Becker)

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