A new crop of free-spirited fashion designers take the focus back to well-made, hand-crafted clothes, putting the spotlight on Indian textiles and playing with fabric
While living the simple life is romanticised by many, the past decade or so has seen a marked return to living more consciously and mindfully, more out of responsibility towards our fragile environment. Called slow living, there is a sudden buzz, with people making more informed choices about their lifestyle by weighing in on how their actions affect themselves and the earth at large.
As a country, we are no strangers to slow living choices, especially when it comes to fashion. We have been champions of our rich textiles, eco friendly vegetable dyes and painstaking weaving methods. Designers such as Mumbai-based Prasad Ramamurthy of Tat (also a journalist with Conde Nast Traveller) and former advertising professional Preeti Verma of the label Runaway Bicycle, or Kochi-based Joe Ikareth with his self titled label, were early embracers of this genre of fashion, setting up business a few years ago.
But slow fashion is having a moment in the sun like never before, with the trend still having many takers such as Viji Joy from Pondicherry who introduced her label That Thou Art early this year, and is now coming out with her Onam collection—organic cotton dresses with kasavu. Apart from metros, tier two cities like Ahmedabad (a creative hub because of the National Institute of Design), Surat, Jaipur, Baroda and Goa, also boast a considerable number of these niche designers, thanks to e-commerce throwing open the field.
We present a new line-up of indie labels who are fashioning fine Indian textiles into hand-stitched garments, while charting out their own schedule, defying the seasonal format of releasing collections and working with artisans to create limited edition lines.
To top it off, most of them go easy on the pocket as well.
Moutushi Sarkar and Rituraj Singh, both NIFT alumni (Sarkar is from Kolkata and Singh from Bangalore), were the original brains behind resort wear label, Example Clothing, which opened back in 2012 in New Delhi. Two years later, they were joined by Anchal Bohra, who has experience in the garment industry with labels like London-based After Six and Eliza Jane Howell as a design developer and quality controller. “We are a happy team of three partners. Along with our artisan friends, we bring in our varied experiences and skills to the table,” shares Sarkar. Example Clothing focuses on simplicity of design, ease of wearing, zero wastage and minimal machine use. “We only work with natural fibres like cotton, silk, linen and bamboo and want to expand into more progressive natural fabrics such as hemp. But stick to our bio-degradable and recyclable aspect,” Sarkar shares. The trio incorporates local and old crafts from regions across the country and the globe into their garments. They are currently working with artisans from Ethiopia, Turkey and South East Asia, for a line celebrating handicrafts indigenous to these countries. Look out for tie and dye techniques of shibori and bandhani on shirts, shift dresses, skirts, trousers and tops. Other highlights include kantha embroidery, Kashmiri kangri and Gujarati rabari mirror work.
Rs 3,000 up. Details: facebook.com/exampleclothing
Old crafts (shibori, ikat, folk embroideries), Music (One Giant Leap is an all time inspiration), popular subcultures (they give a lot of insight into our dressing, like punk, beatniks, Dadaism).
It has always been about design for Chennai-based Neha Sanghvi. An architect, she joined her mother-in-law Savita Jain, a designer, out of curiosity. Now, two years later, she has launched Kahaani, a ready-to-wear line. “I’ve always been drawn to handlooms, so I did my first line of kaftan dresses two months ago (12 pieces) as an experiment, using naturally-dyed handloom cottons and linens,” she says. It sold out in a month—through social media. Now, ready with her second line, Sanghvi says it comprises tunics, long dresses, skirts, and kurtis—in earthy shades of greys, indigo and blacks, with splashes of yellow and red. “My design mantra is that less is more, and more is a bore. I design comfortable, happy clothing that are stylish, yet minimalist,” says the designer, who plays with detailings like bows and textured patterns. She plans to collaborate with pop-up-stores, set up her own unit to manufacture organic fabric, and get an online presence soon.
From Rs 2,000. Details: facebook.com/KahaanibyNehaSanghvi
I keep my everyday clothing minimalist with a panel of colour or texture. playing with earthy tones of greys and blacks, I give it a touch of fun wiith pops or trims of bright colour.
The Pot Plant
Born out of Sanya Suri and Resham Karmchandani’s mutual inclination towards a sustainable lifestyle and their firm belief in less is more, Delhi-based label The Pot Plant was formed in July 2014. “The idea sprang from the need to bring back easy fashion and natural fabrics,” begins Karmchandani. The duo’s focus is on fuss-free, everyday clothing, with zero wastage. This is done by transforming extra scrap material into bow ties, accessories, hangers, scarves, finger puppets, cushions and anything that catches their fancy. “An amalgamation of handwoven, 100 per cent natural and end-of-the-line-fabrics, sourced from small time weavers is used to create designs,” Karmchan-dani tells us. Loose fitting dresses, overcoats, shirts, blouses and skirts for women and casual shirts for men comprise their collection, with camel, pale peach and grey forming the colour palette. “Our latest collection has a splash of colour with mostly neutral and soothing tones,” shares Suri. After touring other metros, The Pot Plant is ready to foray into the South with exhibitions in Chennai and Bangalore planned for October.
Rs 1,100 upwards. Details: facebook.com/thepotplant
Comfortable, anti fit and subtle elements. Inspirations from stories and details from our parents and grandparents’ lives.
The Summer House
Originally a kitchen and dining ware label, Bangalore-based The Summer House by Shivangini Parihar and Rekha Datla branched into clothing in February this year. With an aim to create modern, minimalist garments using craft techniques and sustainable processes, it has a free-spirited vibe with keen attention to craftsmanship. Parihar, the creative director, grew up in a village in Gujarat, where watching cattle getting milked, driving tractors and riding on horses were part of the daily grind. Datla, the business head, grew up in Bangalore in a family that was deeply rooted in art and culture. Working with natural fabrics like cotton and silk (handwoven and organic as much as possible) sourced from pockets in Tirupur, Ahmedabad and Bangalore, their next collection is aptly named Rescued Ones. “The collection is made from excess stock in godowns of some big fabric manufacturers. We have thus reduced our carbon footprint of specially manufacturing and sourcing fabric for a collection,” shares Parihar. From shirt dresses, button down shirts, vests, robes and T-shirts to trousers, theirs is a line that is elegant in its simplicity. “The Woodstock Dress did particularly well with its beautiful free flowing form with an exaggerated hem that is curved on the sides,” reveals Parihar. With a new collection out every two months, limited to five to 10 designs, their next line is expected this month.
Rs 1,200 upwards. Details: thesummerhouse.in
Hindi for ‘pure cotton’, Khara Kapas was started by Shilpi Yadav, a product of the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad in February 2015. Based in Gurgaon, the label specialises in cotton, and Yadav tells us that the focus is on mulmul, apart from other natural fabrics such as jute and linen.
“Being an army kid, I had the privilege of travelling extensively throughout my childhood and experience India’s vivid culture,” says Yadav, adding that her exposure to the country’s diversity forms the inspiration for the label. “We work with Indian crafts and keep our designs simple and fluid with earthy colours and versatile prints,” Yadav shares. She works with weavers and artisans from Rajasthan, West Bengal, Hyderabad and Gujarat.Importance is given to comfort: think long dresses with easy, free flowing silhouettes. “Our designs incorporate fundamental elements of ethnic heritage that make an appearance throughout our designs. By leveraging the versatility of cotton, we look beyond the typical saris and summer kurtis,” she says.
Yadav’s latest line is a mix of bagru block printed fabric and mulmul. “We worked a lot with layering and crochet trims. Our colour palette was primarily indigo, ivory and earthy tones,” she tells us. All block printing is done with natural dyes with maxi, fit and flare dresses and cotton tops dominating the collection. Rs 2,000 upwards. Details: facebook.com/KharaKapas
Inputs: Niranjana Hariharanandanan
By popular demand
Our layered mulmul maxi dresses are popular. These are created in layers of soft mulmul fabric, sometimes with crochet detailing. They have a relaxed fit with layers that sway as you walk.
Living Art Lifestyles
Pondicherry-based Bidisha Samantaray of Living Art Lifestyles is now travelling to boutiques in Mumbai. Her new collection comprises Gujarati block prints on cotton handlooms and pure silks from Orissa, and offers maxi dresses, palazzos and tunics. “I have gone for a casual chic look with this line and played with geometric and graphic designs such as squares, zig-zag and a hint of tribal motifs,” says the 30-year old, who is already working on her next line that will showcase organic cotton and feature zari embroidery, mirror work and Indian texture. Starting Rs 1,100. Details: facebook.com/livingartlifestyles
By Rashmi Rajagopal