Young designers in the country are redefining, reviving and changing the way we look at traditional Indian textiles. We give you a clear picture.
From basic khadi weaving to intricate jamdani, India’s younger breed of designers have struck a chord with ancient techniques. Moving away from laptops to looms, they work with local weavers in remote pockets across the country to create pieces that are steeped in tradition yet suited to modern sensibilities. With the hot months ahead of us, we look at labels that specialise in light-weight fabrics for your summer wardrobe.
Uparna Das | Kolkata
Uparna Das, the face behind the label Anra, finds inspiration in everything that’s heritage and antique. “Old palaces, abandoned buildings, ancient textiles and costumes, and old books. But mostly bringing forgotten crafts into modern day commercial products,” she says. Growing up exposed to the beauty of jamdani weaves in a Bengali household, Das was captivated by its designs from a very young age. “It was pretty obvious for me to build my label around,” she says.
After abandoning a “monotonous 9 to 5 desk job”, Das launched her line in 2011. At Anra, the jamdani weave is mixed with other natural fabrics like silk to create beautiful designs for the modern woman. “Jamdani weaving is a traditional process of weaving fine cotton yarns into beautiful motifs. I use handwoven cotton fabric that has been ornamented with intricate techniques of jamdani weaving,” she explains. Currently working on her spring summer collection, her designs extend from tunics, blouses, kurtas, skater and maxi dresses to jackets and scarves, all with interesting details like high-low hemlines, vibrant stripes and contrasting colour schemes. Showing great restraint when it comes to her use of shades, her clothes are testament to her refined colour palette.
Bappaditya Biswas | Kolkata
Started in 2002, Bai Lou today is a name to reckon with in the handcrafted fabrics space. Bappaditya Biswas, the man behind the designs focuses mainly on Bengal handlooms and creates one-of-a-kind sarees, scarves, fabrics and soft home furnishings to suit modern tastes. However, creating pretty things is not the only thing Biswas is concerned about.
“I also decided to go into textile revival due to the social aspect, where we provide economic viability to a thousand artisans and their families, making them self-sufficient and self employed,” Biswas says, ahead of his exhibition at Raintree on March 7 and 8, adding, “Additionally, this keeps the traditions of our rich, diverse cultural heritage and identity alive.” Working with weavers who produce fabrics according to his own specifications, Biswas starts off the process with the twisting and mixing of yarns to create new textures, the yarns are then sent for dyeing. Next, they are sent for processing.
The warp yarns are then sized and sent for drumming and denting after which they are set on the loom. The entire process takes about 25 days before the actual weaving starts. “That is the beauty of handlooms. They allow you to create new textures and bases that are not available in the market,” Biswas, who dressed Sonakshi Sinha in Lootera, says. Inspired by historical textiles, high skill artisans and their crafts, he is currently working on including jamdani and dhooti weaves and Bengal Shantipuri borders into his collection and adds that his products are meant to cater to a wider customer base.
Deepika Govind | Bangalore
“This is my passion. Not just my vocation,” Deepika Govind begins. With experience of over 15 years in the industry and being the recipient of a number of awards for design, Govind’s is not an unknown name. Having started her career with khadi weaves and pure indigo dyeing, the designer has now branched into working intricate dyeing techniques like ikat, patola and Pochampali, and weaving exquisite wild silks like eri, muga and tussar into her sought after garments.
On a mission to save dying Indian crafts, she works with NGOs in places like Orissa, Bihar, Gujarat, Assam, Uttarakhand, Benaras and Himachal Pradesh. Govind lays emphasis on the abundance of diverse weaving techniques that can be found in India. “It is incredibly amazing how every state has a distinct way of creating textiles. I love working intensively and extensively with these textiles,” she shares. From experimenting with interesting blends like khadi silk and tencel, modal and Indian silk, chiffon and lycra to being the first to use aromatherapy on silks, creating eri denim (eri silk in a denim weave), a cool and wet effect on silk, threads of gold sarees for KSIC (Karnataka Silk Industries Corporation) and reviving the Illkal checkered weaves of Karnataka, Govind’s achievements are innumerable. “It’s not easy. We work against a lot of odds. Since it’s done by hand, there is a greater chance for mistakes to happen. But it’s a labour of love,” she says.
Sanjukta Roy | Kolkata
Sanjukta Roy’s foray into creating gorgeous outfits out of neglected fabrics like gamchas and lungis started out of the abundant supply she had stocked in her cupboard. “Over the years, I had collected roughly 60 pieces of fabric that I used to buy on my travels. I had my heart set on doing something by myself and be my own boss. So I used what I had at hand and fell in love with the simplicity of these weaves,” Roy tells us. Working only with the humble lungis and gamchas, Roy’s line includes flowy, asymmetric tops and dresses, roomy pajama pants, kurtas and sarees meant to cater to women who would like to opt for comfort without compromising on style.
“The textiles that I work with are not given their due and are not taken seriously. We even have songs like Lungi Dance dedicated to poke fun at this common Indian fabric,” Roy says, adding, “People are not aware that these two fabrics are ideal for Indian weather conditions. They absorb moisture and dry up quickly, helping to cool down the body.”
Aiming to eliminate waste, she also creates funky pieces of jewellery from the extra fabric left
over from the apparel she manufactures. Travelling across the length and breadth of the country to source her material, Roy works with
weavers and artisans to create her products but she informs us that the future of small time weaving ironically, is hanging by a thread. “The lower rung of weavers who do not earn much so have moved on to other more lucrative jobs. I do not think they would want to return to their original craft, though I wish they would,” she says.
Anaka Narayanan | Chennai
An economic analyst by profession, Anaka Narayanan got into the industry out of her own craving for well-cut garments made from natural and handwoven fabrics. “I started Brass Tacks because I wanted to see and wear well-cut, fashion-forward clothes made out of these fabrics and at the time, very few brands and designers offered that. Of course, a huge appeal with these textiles is that they have a story behind them and they are handcrafted using techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation in India,” she explains.
Influenced by her mother’s vast collection of hand-woven sarees, Narayanan’s line features ikats from Andhra Pradesh, khadi and ajrakh prints from Kutch, mashru (a luxurious handwoven satin) from Gujarat, block prints, Maheshwari cotton silk, jamdani and tie-dyed fabrics from Rajasthan that are transformed into urban silhouettes ideal for the modern, cosmopolitan woman. “It’s pretty incredible that our ancestors had the intelligence to create a textile like ikat that’s arguably way tougher than solving a Rubik’s cube,” she enthuses. Inspired by contemporary street fashion, the techniques behind the crafts, the environments in which these textiles are made, music, film, and her customers, Narayanan soon plans to go beyond designing clothes for women in the late 20s to mid 30s age group, and widen her appeal and focus more on her online store, have exhibitions in other cities, and open a second store.
Chandrashekhar MV| Bangalore
Chandra shekhar’s no-nonsense approach to his work is refreshing. Focussing on basic khadi weaves of Karnataka, he and business partner Ravi Kiran of Metaphor Racha choose to stay away from fads and stick to timeless pieces. “We are not trying to be different. For us, comfort and quality take priority over what’s on trend or the latest fad,” he explains.
The two are constantly travelling to major khadi weaving belts in the state like Mandya, Mysore, Tumkur, Badami, Chitradurga and Davangere to work with the local weavers who hand-spin the material they use for their designs. “In Karnataka, we are blessed with a very coarse version of khadi and we must take advantage of it,” he says, adding that they seek to help sustain the livelihood of the weavers and others involved in the process. From hand-spun khadi sarees, the first of its kind made from authentic Karnataka weaves, to dupattas and stoles, the line also includes household furnishings like quilts, pillow cases, table runners, napkins and cushion covers. Details: metaphorracha.com
By Rashmi Rajagopal (firstname.lastname@example.org)