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    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 and textures
    By Rashmi Rajagopal


    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 Chennai-based interior designer Neha Sangvi, who in June founded Kahaani by Neha Sangvi with handloom cotton dresses. Apart from metros, tier two cities like Ahmedabad (a creative hub because of the National Institute of Design), Surat, Jaipur, Baroda, Goa and Pondicherry, 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. And to top it off, most of these labels go easy on the pocket as well.

    Example Clothing

    Moutushi Sarkar and Rituraj Singh, both NIFT alumni (Sarkar is from Kolkata and Singh from Bangalore), were the original brains behind simple clothingresort 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. a�?We are a happy team of three partners. Along with our artisan friends, we bring in our varied experiences and skills to the table,a�? shares Sarkar. Example Clothing focuses on simplicity of design, ease of wearing, zero wastage and minimal machine use. a�?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,a�? 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.
    `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).


    That Thou Art

    Having worked as a costume designer for movies like Monsoon Shootout and Unfreedom for five years in Mumbai, Viji Joy decided to take a ThatThouArt2break and headed to Auroville, Pondicherry. She fell in love with the place and never left, turning to her first love, creating beautiful garments under the name That Thou Art, which she explains is translated from the Sanskrit phrase tat-tvam-asi. a�?I am inspired by what is around me, I am inspired by what a�?youa�? are. I attempt to give back to you a bit of you,a�? Joy tells us.
    Launched in April this year, the 30-year-old uses natural handloom, dyes and organic fabrics for her creations. Her last collection entitled Ecru is made from kora or unbleached organic cotton featuring maxi and flared dresses, while earlier lines included summer dresses and skirts made from Pochampally ikat. Joy also promotes zero wastage, choosing to get bags, and shoes made out of the extra fabric by women from the villages around Auroville.
    She is currently working on a festive line of tops, skirts and palazzo pants for Onam, with the off-white and gold kasavu fabric, native to the state.
    `1,500 upwards. Details: facebook.com/

    In the Pipeline
    Curvy women often find it hard to get clothes that are soft and girly, so Ia��m working towards a line for my plus-sized clients, with gathered hems, etc.


    The Pot Plant

    Born out of Sanya Suri and Resham Karmchandania��s mutual inclination towards a sustainable lifestyle and their firm belief in less is more, PotPlantDelhi-based label The Pot Plant was formed in July 2014. a�?The idea sprang from the need to bring back easy fashion and natural fabrics,a�? begins Karmchandani. The duoa��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. a�?An amalgamation of handwoven, 100 per cent natural and end-of-the-line-fabrics, sourced from small time weavers is used to create designs,a�? 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. a�?Our latest collection has a splash of colour with mostly neutral and soothing tones,a�? 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.
    `1,100 upwards. Details: facebook.com/thepotplant

    Design aesthetic
    Comfortable, anti-fit and subtle elements. Inspirations from stories and details from our parents and grandparentsa�� 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 SummerHousein 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. a�?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,a�? 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. a�?The Woodstock Dress did particularly well with its beautiful free flowing form with an exaggerated hem that is curved on the sides,a�? reveals Parihar. With a new collection out every two months, limited to five to 10 designs, their next line is expected this month.
    `1,200 upwards. Details: thesummerhouse.in

    Social offline
    We curate events called Summer House Gatherings such as an open air movie screening of Casablanca.


    Khara Kapas

    Hindi for a�?pure cottona��, Khara Kapas was started by Shilpi Yadav, a product of the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad in February 2015. KharaKapas1Based 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.
    a�?Being an army kid, I had the privilege of travelling extensively throughout my childhood and experience Indiaa��s vivid culture,a�? says Yadav, adding that her exposure to the countrya��s diversity forms the inspiration for the label. a�?We work with Indian crafts and keep our designs simple and fluid with earthy colours and versatile prints,a�? 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. a�?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,a�? she says.
    Yadava��s latest line is a mix of bagru block printed fabric and mulmul. a�?We worked a lot with layering and crochet trims. Our colour palette was primarily indigo, ivory and earthy tones,a�? she tells us. All block printing is done with natural dyes with maxi, fit and flare dresses and cotton tops dominating the collection.
    `2,000 upwards. Details: facebook.com/KharaKapas

    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.


    Runaway Bicycle

    RunawayBicycle7Mumbai-based Runaway Bicycle, was one of the first to embrace slow fashion. a�?Ita��s the tiny details which we seem to have abandoned or forgotten somewhere while growing up,a�? explains founder Preeti Verma. The former advertising professional grew up in a village in Uttaranchal and graduated in fine arts. But her desire to make simple, beautiful clothes saw her giving up her profession as an art director. Handwoven cottons, linens, khadi and silk are mainly used by Verma in her collections including rare organic kala cotton and natural dyes. Runaway Bicyclea��s latest collection, Rosie is My Best Friend, offers clean cuts and loose silhouettes. We love Matildas Brunch, a dress made of khadi with delicate tussar checks.
    `2,500 upwards. Details: runawaybicycle.in


    m rashmi.r@newindianexpress.com


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