A Kaleidoscope of Colour
Profiling textile designer Vineeta Jadhavrao
The recently launched garment label Abha showcases the eye-catching and colourful facets of the collage fabric technique. Brinda Gill profiles textile designer Vineeta Jadhavrao who recently co-launched Abha. “Collage fabric technique allows for the mixing, blending and grading of colours and using an entire spectrum of colours,” says textile designer Vineeta Jadhavrao, Founder, Calyz Textiles, Pune. She recently launched Abha, a women’s garment label featuring the technique, in collaboration with Mumbai-based designer Aparna Wakhle Verma, who specialises in stitched garments. And the result is a range of attractive saris, tops, shirts, tunics, long kurtas, shrugs and capes embellished with mosaic art!
FROM HOME FURNISHINGS TO GARMENTS
Vineeta, a graduate from NID, Ahmedabad, worked in the textile industry for a few years before setting out to found her own studio in 2000. With her love for natural fabrics and commitment towards sustainability, she decided to specialise in a range of exclusive handcrafted home furnishings made from natural fabrics.
In late 2017, Vineeta conceived of the collage fabric technique and registered it for a patent. The technique, akin to textile mosaic, is a surface embellishment technique, wherein small pieces of fabric are hand-pasted on a base fabric according to a pre-defined pattern/composition and then further secured by lines of machine stitches. The initial efforts in exploring the technique resulted in a range of colourful wall art, cushion covers, quilts, blankets, bedcovers, curtains, table covers and place mats. With appreciation for the home furnishings and linen, and suggestions from Aparna that the technique be featured on garments, Vineeta decided to collaborate with her to take the technique a step further by working it on garments and thus launched Abha.
The Abha label features the collage fabric technique or fabric collage technique on 100 per cent linen and a blend of linen and cotton fabrics. “By embellishing the ground fabric with another fabric, we create a composite fabric. As both the mosaic work and the ground fabric (where the mosaic work is not present) are visible to the eye,
THE NATURE OF THE WORK ALLOWS FOR EACH GARMENT TO BEAR A CUSTOMISED PATTERN AS IT IS CREATED BY AN ARTISAN WHO FOLLOWS THE PATTERN GIVEN TO HER.
it is imperative that both fabrics are of high quality. For this reason, we use high-quality natural fabrics for the ground textile and the work.”
THE HAND OF ARTISANS
The fabric collage technique is meticulously handworked by artisans, with Vineeta guiding them about the size, colours and placement of the mosaic fabrics. For saris, Vineeta works on the patterns, and for stitched garments she and Aparna discuss the patterns to be made so that the design appears on the required areas (of the stitched garment) such as the sleeve, yoke, collar and placket.
The mosaic work is carried out by women from the rural areas around Pune, thus promoting handcrafts as well as reaching out to women, helping them develop their skills and earn an income in the proximity of their homes. About 30 per cent of the raw material is recycled from in-house production. The nature of the work allows for each garment to bear a customised pattern as it is created by an artisan who follows the pattern given to her. Even if two garments are of the same cut/style, they may bear different patterns and/or colours of mosaic art, thus giving them a different look. All these factors create a garment that is unique, natural, easy to maintain and environment-conscious.
The garments have been presented in collections named after French impressionist painters, as their look and feel alludes to the works of impressionist painters who worked with quick, deft, short and thick strokes of paint to capture the effect of light and mood (rather than the realistic details) of a particular scene. Thus, they rendered hundreds of strokes, juxtaposing colours with minimum mixing, which created vivid works infused with the sense of a place. It is this effect that the collage fabric technique as practised for the Abha label recreates.
Given this inspiration, the garment styles have been named after impressionist artists. “As Van Gogh is associated with bright yellow sunflowers,
COLOUR IS OF SINGULAR IMPORTANCE IN THE COLLAGE FABRIC TECHNIQUE BECAUSE COLOUR CAN BE USED IN SUCH VARIED WAYS TO CREATE PATTERN, TEXTURE AND FORM.
we recreated that effect on garments of that style such as yellow mosaic work on the sleeve of a garment. The base colours of another garment of the Van Gogh style are grey and blue, which are the signature colours of the painter in his famous work Starry Night. The Seurat style has a graded spangle of fabric pieces around the neck and sleeves as an ode to the artist’s pointillism technique which is an inspiration for this style. Similarly, Matisse is a style where blocks of bright colours are used with a fine texture created by fabric pieces, as an ode to his palette of bright colours–at times complementary and at times contrasting–that characterised his works.”
THE CHALLENGES OF THE TECHNIQUE
The process of designing fabrics with mosaic art for stitched garments has its challenges. “The inherent nature of the fabric collage technique tends to retain the randomness of pattern. However, repeats have to be worked out within this seeming randomness. The aim of the design is to have an invisible structure which binds this randomness. Hence, the patterns are formed in set repeat sizes by using them unconventionally. The dynamics of the technique implies that we use the pattern on the neck and a single sleeve or create a pattern along the seam. Sometimes, the orientation is rotated through 90 degrees to make it production-friendly,” explains Vineeta.
The constraints of the process meant that the designers had to make the most of the band of repeats permitted by the process. “This nature of the process involves challenges and an element of unpredictability. However, we take them as happy surprises and work around them when required, and it adds an element of fun to the process and design.”
COLOUR IT IS!
Colour is of singular importance in the collage fabric technique because colour can be used in such varied ways to create pattern, texture and form. “Colour interaction in a pattern changes the perception of colour. For example, a tree is visible in its lush green beauty because of the thousands of colours we see in it due to light and shade. Similarly, close and contrasting colours are used to render a composition. It is a creative and interesting process,” explains Vineeta.
Colours are selected depending on the composition to create the required effect and depth. “Usually, the more colours one uses, the richer the composition. While more than 10 colours can be used in art pieces, for garment production one needs to work with a limited range of colours that are used creatively to create depth and drama.”
A lot of trial and error goes into deciding what really works. Vineeta says, “Designers in our studio spend hours working out the colours. Also, sometimes what works in the digital media might not necessarily work in fabric. For all styles, the colours were tried both digitally as well as on
fabric. For example, in the Renoir style, two close colours with a highlight colour are used; however, for the Van Gogh style, two close colours of yellow are used. In the collage fabric technique, the gradation of colours has to be carefully thought of. Transitioning from one colour to the next colour is the tricky part. There is a lot of trial and error that goes into making the gradation work. For this reason, we have used gradation selectively.”
A TACTILE QUALITY
By its very nature, mosaic art gives a textile a tactile quality. “Texture should be intrinsic to handcrafted textiles. Internationally renowned textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen has remarked that texture gives us comfort both physically and psychologically. In the fabric collage technique, texture comes alive due to the small pieces that are used to make the composite fabric. After washing, the pieces curl in marginally to bring about a tactile dimension to the surface. The textural quality makes this textile wear well with time, similar to any natural material like wood or leather. These garments are machine washable and low-maintenance despite the technique used. Washing only enhances its texture.”
The collage fabric technique rendered on fabrics that are to be used for stitched garments involves meticulous planning before work starts, in order to ensure the the design emerges as required in terms of placement, density of the mosaic and its pattern. “When we first decided on working with mosaic art for garments, we bought readymade garments and embellished them with mosaic art to see how they would look. There was lots of trial and error. We made samples,” says Aparna.
“Given the four hands that are involved–that is for tracing patterns, working the mosaic, stitching it down and then stitching the garment itself–in the designing process of stitched garments, there is a lot of collaboration involved. The mosaic work has to be planned for the different parts of the garment and we have not gone completely with the established style of embellishing the collar, yoke, placket and cuffs. The mosaic work has to adapt to the style of a garment. For instance, if we are recreating the effect of a splash of colour on a garment, the cut of the garment should also adapt for the free flow of that splash. It should not look constricted,” elaborates Aparna.
The style of the attire–the unstitched saris as well as the stitched garments–is one of easy, attractive comfort wear. “The style of the attire makes it suitable for everyday wear. The collections offer attire that can be worn for work as well as parties. The garments such as capes and shrugs are convenient to carry in one’s bag, and slip on over one’s dress to transform one’s look from work wear to a glamorous party look. In this way, the attire offers an element of flexibility.” Further, the garments are designed in free and XL sizes for ease of wearing. With their combination of attractive surface treatments, colours, cuts and versatility, the garments are offering a new expression in apparel for women.