The But­ton Masala Magic!

Ahmed­abad-based fash­ion de­signer Anuj Sharma speaks to Brinda Gill about his in­no­va­tive But­ton Masala joinery con­cept that al­lows the de­signer and wearer to cre­ate mul­ti­ple sil­hou­ettes as well as gar­ments from the same fab­ric.

Apparel - - Contents April 2017 -

Ahmed­abad-based De­signer Anuj Sharma talks about his in­no­va­tive But­ton Masala joinery con­cept

Imag­ine trans­form­ing the length of fab­ric into a stylish gar­ment with­out any stitch­ing. In the ethos of In­dia’s won­der­ful liv­ing tra­di­tion of un­stitched gar­ments like the sari, dhoti and wrap-around skirt, are the un­stitched gar­ments of Ahmed­abad­based de­signer Anuj Sharma. Work­ing only with fab­ric, but­tons and high-qual­ity ny­lon rub­ber bands, Anuj deftly con­structs at­trac­tive gar­ments that drape flu­idly, have flow­ing sil­hou­ettes and in­ter­est­ing tex­tures, and can be given a new look sim­ply by but­ton­ing or un­but­ton­ing a few but­tons in a mat­ter of min­utes! And his creative tech­nique and gar­ments saw him re­ceive the Marie Claire Award for the most in­no­va­tive de­sign in 2010.


Anuj’s in­ter­est in creat­ing a dif­fer­ent style of de­sign­ing ap­parel goes back to his days when he was study­ing Ap­parel De­sign at NID, Ahmed­abad, (1996-2000) and was keen to de­sign gar­ments that looked good and could be cre­ated quickly, eas­ily and in­ex­pen­sively. The idea of an al­ter­na­tive tech­nique struck him when he saw a man wear­ing a shirt that had been wrongly but­ton­holed. As Anuj saw the mis­match of the but­tons and but­ton­holes, he re­alised that if one but­ton is put in­cor­rectly, it re­sults in one vari­a­tion in the way the shirt ap­pears. And con­tin­u­ing that thread of thought, he rea­soned that if there were sev­eral but­tons that were put wrongly, a pat­tern would emerge!

With this idea tak­ing root, he asked his tai­lor Munnab­hai to try out some­thing new. He had a length of fab­ric dot­ted with but­tons at a two-inch dis­tance from each other, thus creat­ing a grid of but­tons. He also had a set of straps with a se­ries of but­ton holes stitched at a two-inch gap. Putting th­ese two to­gether, he cre­ated a gar­ment with shoul­der straps and dif­fer­ent drapes, ad­just­ing the straps to cre­ate dif­fer­ent lengths and ef­fects. Look­ing at the cre­ation and its pos­si­bil­i­ties he re­alised it would be pos­si­ble to cre­ate an end­less num­ber of gar­ments by but­ton­ing the fab­ric in dif­fer­ent ways! Fur­ther, the tech­nique was so easy that even the wearer could make ad­just­ments or changes as de­sired!


Anuj then worked on tak­ing the tech­nique fur­ther. He fig­ured that he needed to re­move the re­quire­ment of stitch­ing but­tons that in­volved labour and time. So, he sim­ply placed the but­tons un­der the fab­ric, pushed them up slightly (in the way cloth is pushed up with the lit­tle finger nail in the tra­di­tional tie-dye tech­nique) from below, and then tied the but­ton with a rub­ber band from the main sur­face of the fab­ric. He says thread can be used in­stead of a rub­ber band, only it would be more time-con­sum­ing.

Anuj, thus, cre­ated a num­ber of such but­tons, that in turn, cre­ated tex­ture (such as by work­ing a clus­ter of but­tons); drapes by the way the fab­ric was but­toned; and joined two fab­rics (by ei­ther plac­ing them one above the other and join­ing them with a sin­gle but­ton us­ing the tech­nique or stretch­ing a rub­ber band across two but­tons, one on ei­ther fab­ric). In this way, a unique gar­ment was cre­ated quickly and eas­ily, us­ing a sim­ple tech­nique that of­fered pos­si­bil­i­ties for cre­ativ­ity, and with­out the use of any tools or stitch­ing. And by but­ton­ing the same fab­ric in a dif­fer­ent way, it was pos­si­ble to trans­form it from a dress to a skirt, top or pon­cho de­pend­ing on one’s pref­er­ence, the oc­ca­sion or the weather! Stem­ming from the sim­ple joinery tech­nique he dis­cov­ered, Anuj founded his stu­dio and brand in 2009, and fit­tingly named it But­ton Masala.


Ex­plor­ing the tech­nique, Anuj de­signed a won­der­ful spec­trum of tops, dresses, skirts and trousers. The dresses can be of an amaz­ing num­ber of styles such as long and short; with pleats, folds and ruf­fles; sleeve­less, short sleeves or long sleeves, and each of dif­fer­ent style; off-shoul­der; sin­gle lay­ered or of mul­ti­ple lay­ers; sim­ple or dra­matic; sym­met­ri­cal or asym­met­ri­cal, and more.


As the tech­nique of­fers end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties, Anuj be­lieves in tak­ing on the role of a fa­cil­i­ta­tor and be­ing guided by the fab­ric and al­low it to take shape and cre­ate a gar­ment. Typ­i­cally, he de­signs by us­ing a rec­tan­gu­lar length of fab­ric, and there is no cut­ting re­quired. He sug­gests drap­ing the fab­ric on a per­son or man­nequin; gaug­ing its look, feel and drape; and then build­ing a gar­ment by work­ing one but­ton at a time, adding fab­ric as re­quired to get the de­sired look and length.

Anuj works with a va­ri­ety of fab­rics namely cot­ton, khadi, mul­mul, silk, knits, vis­cose, geor­gettes and polyester. While most of the gar­ments use but­tons for the joinery, he sug­gests us­ing other el­e­ments such as se­quins, bot­tle caps, coins or beads. He has used ta­ble ten­nis balls and small tea glasses that have given the gar­ments a sculp­tural qual­ity. And as the but­tons

and the fab­ric cre­ate tex­tures and pat­terns, he feels there is no re­quire­ment for other em­bel­lish­ments such as em­broi­dery mak­ing the tech­nique a com­plete de­sign­ing method in it­self.


Anuj is of the view that de­sign has to be ex­pe­ri­enced. He wants the wearer of a gar­ment to be in­volved in and ac­tively par­tic­i­pate in the de­sign of the gar­ment, a sen­ti­ment that is ex­pe­ri­enced when drap­ing a sari, yet one that is mostly ab­sent when wear­ing a stitched gar­ment. Through the But­ton Masala tech­nique, the wearer can ad­just the gar­ment or change its looks in part or sig­nif­i­cantly by but­ton­ing or un­but­ton­ing sec­tions of the gar­ment, adding or re­mov­ing rub­ber bands between sec­tions of the gar­ment.

Anuj feels that ap­parel de­signs should also of­fer pos­si­bil­i­ties for trans­for­ma­tion. The But­ton Masala dresses sub­scribe to this phi­los­o­phy as the en­tire gar­ment can be re­struc­tured by re­mov­ing all the but­tons and rub­ber bands, get­ting the length/lengths of orig­i­nal fab­ric, and creat­ing an­other dif­fer­ent gar­ment from the same fab­ric. Fur­ther, if the wearer puts on or loses weight the gar­ment can be eas­ily ad­justed for the weight gain or loss.

He adds that ap­parel de­sign it­self should be sim­ple, ap­proach­able, in­ex­pen­sive and be ac­ces­si­ble even to chil­dren to make their own clothes, and easy to make from the avail­able fab­ric whether it is one length or mul­ti­ple lengths of fab­ric. This ap­proach was il­lus­trated dur­ing a work­shop he held for chil­dren liv­ing in a set­tle­ment where he showed and taught them how to make rain­coats with tar­pau­lin, but­tons and rub­ber bands. The chil­dren were pleased with the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of the tech­nique and that they could cre­ate rain­coats for them­selves.


As gar­ments fol­low­ing the But­ton Masala tech­nique can be crafted from any avail­able fab­ric and at times us­ing dif­fer­ent pieces of fab­ric, and us­ing only but­tons and rub­ber bands with­out any tools, ma­chines or tai­lor­ing re­quired, it is in­her­ently an in­ex­pen­sive, easy, quick and eco-friendly fash­ion style. As there is no cut­ting of fab­ric in­volved there is no wastage. Fur­ther, as one gar­ment can be worn in dif­fer­ent ways, giv­ing it a look of a new/dif­fer­ent gar­ment, opt­ing for a But­ton Masala tech­nique gar­ment is also a money-saver. And the pos­si­bil­ity of un­do­ing the en­tire gar­ment and creat­ing a new gar­ment en­hances its eco-friendly ap­peal.

Anuj can cre­ate a dress in as lit­tle as five min­utes, with a more elab­o­rate cre­ation tak­ing a cou­ple hours. He has con­ducted sev­eral work­shops demon­strat­ing and teach­ing the But­ton Masala tech­nique in In­dia and over­seas. His great­est joy is in see­ing peo­ple re­alise how easy and ver­sa­tile it is, and creat­ing their own gar­ments. For him, it is an in­clu­sive tech­nique that is to be shared by wear­ers and crafts per­sons, and he hopes its ap­peal will en­cour­age peo­ple to give the unique tech­nique a try.

Go to: https://www.face­ but­ton­masala/

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