Hand­wo­ven, Hand­made!

Chi­tra Bala­sub­ra­ma­niam stud­ies In­dia’s indige­nous ap­parel in­dus­try as it stirs up a de­light in its new fash­ion­able avatar.

Apparel - - Contents -

Study­ing In­dia’s indige­nous ap­parel in­dus­try

Who can for­get the gor­geous geor­gette del­i­cate printed dress that Duchess Kate Mid­dle­ton wore? The prints in­spired from an­cient Ra­jasthani mo­tifs by Anita Don­gre cre­ated a furore and got the cash box jig­gling with or­ders for it pour­ing from all over the world. Called the Gul­rukh Tu­nic Dress, it is a great ex­am­ple of how In­dian sen­si­bil­ity sits per­fectly in in­ter­na­tional fash­ion con­claves. It can be called a fu­ture pro­gres­sion of tra­di­tional In­dian fab­rics—hand­wo­ven, hand­crafted and em­broi­dered—mov­ing be­yond their tra­di­tional bound­aries to em­brace in­ter­na­tional fash­ion.


These are in­ter­est­ing times for the fash­ion in­dus­try. Sud­denly the do­mes­tic mar­ket is swept by a trend for sar­to­rial slick­ness. The, “look good feel good”, syn­drome is at play, adding to the fact that the younger gen­er­a­tion is mov­ing grad­u­ally to­wards western wear. For­mal dresses and gowns are a part of most ur­ban women’s wardrobe. What is heart­en­ing is that most of this western wear is be­ing crafted out of tra­di­tional hand­loom tex­tiles. Women have no qualms of team­ing the western dresses with tra­di­tional In­dian jew­ellery be it the jhu­mars

or jhumkas. It is this fu­sion of rev­el­ling and will­ing­ness to ex­per­i­ment with fash­ion dic­tates which is spurring on a host of ex­cel­lent de­signs. An oft re­peated state­ment of yesteryears used to be “the time­less­ness of the sari”. Of how beau­ti­ful ex­pen­sive saris can be handed down gen­er­a­tions upon gen­er­a­tions—ex­am­ples would be of Be­narasi bro­cades, paitha­nis, garas, pash­mina shawls, ja­mavars and kan­jee­varams. How­ever, to­day the younger doesn’t seem to want to carry it for­ward as a legacy. Many still do not mind hoard­ing it, but to a ma­jor­ity, it has more utility if it is given a makeover or con­verted into a mod­ern gar­ment. There are sto­ries of how western-style wed­ding dresses have been made from decade old garas. Cut up and stitched, they have their own earthy charm. Old silk saris have been quilted into kan­thas.

Kather­ine Neu­mann of the House of Wan­der­ing Silks has cre­ated some fab­u­lous shrugs and robes from kan­thas quilted out of old silk saris. Old silk saris are quilted us­ing the hum­ble run­ning silk. It is ba­si­cally a two-layer quilt, which makes the piece re­versible. The quilt­ing threads blend in beau­ti­fully with the ba­sic silk. Call it up­cy­cle or re­cy­cle or re­use, it is a gor­geous way of us­ing old silk saris and a way for the women to con­tinue to do the hum­ble

kan­tha. The quilted stoles are fash­ioned to form a shrug. The shrug, re­versible, can be used in any man­ner. It can be draped on a sari, worn with a pair of tights.

Ritu Ku­mar, the doyen of In­dian de­sign­ers who has cre­ated some fab­u­lous pieces on the shoul­ders of the In­dian tex­tile wealth, has used the bro­cades of Benares to ad­van­tage. At the re­cent ex­hi­bi­tion on Benares bro­cades at the Na­tional Mu­seum, there was on dis­play an en­sem­ble cre­ated by her specif­i­cally. A very at­trac­tively draped eye catch­ing pink en­sem­ble teamed with bro­cade jacket and churi­dar re­viv­ing the Ge­tua or Gethwa tech­nique is out­stand­ing called the ‘ Paramveer sa­ree’.

Hand­looms and hand­wo­vens have been by­words for the eth­nic brigade. Hand­wo­ven sa­rees are ex­tremely pop­u­lar, so are fab­rics which are fash­ioned into gar­ments. But what one is see­ing now is the re-in­vent­ing of the tra­di­tional fab­rics to be used with elan on Western out­fits. The grow­ing pref­er­ences of the younger gen­er­a­tion for ready to wear ap­parel, western wear given its higher de­gree of com­fort, a hip feel has made de­sign­ers ex­per­i­ment with the tra­di­tional fab­ric to give it that cut­ting edge.


Fabindia has al­ways been on the fore­front of this in­no­va­tion. Their use of the hum­ble craft is given a twist to make it more ap­peal­ing has al­ways had its share of faith­ful fol­low­ers. It is crafted in silk. Fabindia’s range in tabby silk with tie and dye is eye catch­ing. Mul­berry silk is used for Ajrakh print­ing. There is even band­hani crafted in taby silk! Kalamkari is done on light weight cot­ton which is fur­ther crin­kled to give it an ex­tra edge.

Chan­deri has been fash­ioned into kur­tis, tops and even palaz­zos. Chikankari finds ex­cel­lent place in palazzo pants and trousers.

Jiyo, a brand launched by Ra­jeev Sethi, has man­aged to com­bine crafts to give it a very con­tem­po­rary mod­ern edge. So mod­ern in de­sign and sen­si­bil­i­ties that one can just won­der whether it is the same craft which has been used with so much good de­sign. Their beau­ti­ful ki­monos have in­tri­cate su­jni done on them. The su­jni is done in var­i­ous colours, the de­sign is so beau­ti­ful and in­tri­cate that for a lot it does not look like su­jni at all. Jiyo’s motto (as their web­site www.jiyo.net.in puts it), is “an em­pow­er­ing en­ter­prise, cre­at­ing new liveli­hoods in cre­ative and cul­tural In­dus­tries amongst skilled but eco­nom­i­cally vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties of In­dia, Jiyo!—a de­sign-led ini­tia­tive of the Asian Her­itage Foun­da­tion— sig­ni­fies the ar­rival of In­dia’s Swadeshi (indige­nous) Brand for the 21st Cen­tury.”

The Weaver’s Ser­vice Cen­tre had come up with a new launch of us­ing tra­di­tional hand­loom wear in western style gar­ments. So, from fu­sion skirts, shirts and ca­sual cloth­ing, a range of ex­cel­lent styled cre­ations were show­cased. Su­parkar from Benares had ex­per­i­mented with us­ing Be­naras hand­wo­ven fab­rics to make some eye-catch­ing en­sem­bles of tu­nics.


An­other leg­endary tex­tile which is see­ing in­ter­est­ing in­no­va­tion is Khadi. Khadi, to­day, is no longer the kurta pyjama en­sem­ble. A new va­ri­ety of Khadi—Denim Khadi—has been launched. Khadi denim is ver­sa­tile in beau­ti­ful shades and is a hit. Khadi has been de­signed into sportswear. The ma­te­rial is ideal given its breatha­bil­ity and abil­ity to ab­sorb mois­ture. The best part of khadi is its abil­ity to be blended with other yarns, yes it is be­ing blended with bam­boo yarn, modal, polyester, silk. The nat­u­ral prop­er­ties of khadi


aug­ment the prop­er­ties of the other yarn, giv­ing a fab­ric which is ver­sa­tile with ex­cel­lent drape abil­ity. What makes the fab­ric more at­trac­tive is that it is a truly 100 per cent eco-friendly fab­ric. Since it is hand­spun, hand wo­ven it is pure thus caus­ing no al­ler­gies. It is easy to main­tain. The pro­duc­tion of khadi con­sumes only three liters of wa­ter, while in mills, it is nearly 10 times.


An­other new fab­ric has been re­cently launched, called Malkha—a fab­ric wo­ven in Te­len­gana. The name is an acro­nym for muslin and khadi. It is wo­ven us­ing fine muslin and khadi and has also been dubbed ‘The Free­dom Fab­ric’. Dyed with veg­etable colours, it is the toast of the fab­ric sea­son in In­dia. Uzramma the founder of Dastkar Andhra is work­ing with Malkha. It is a step to­wards sus­tain­abil­ity that has taken the world by storm, given its her­itage and the story which it un­folds. Mak­ing Malkha is process meant to repli­cate the an­cient, us­ing mod­ern tech­nol­ogy. Es­sen­tially, the man­u­fac­tur­ing process is backed by tech­nol­ogy; and yet the fin­ished prod­uct re­tains the beau­ti­ful touch of hand­loom and hand wo­ven cloth. The dye­ing, per­formed in veg­etable colours, adds to the sheen.

It is the use of hand­loom to cre­ate mass mer­chan­dise which will give a boost to In­dia's tex­tile in­dus­try and tra­di­tional In­dian tex­tiles. With cli­mate change and the weather veer­ing to­wards more sum­mer days, cot­ton and other nat­u­ral fi­bres will rule the roost. Tra­di­tional In­dian tex­tiles have sur­vived cen­turies, with such de­sign in­ter­ven­tion to cater to both the youth, as well as the fash­ion-con­scious class, it will truly sur­vive the years to come.

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