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I wear handloom

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I wear handloom

The trend of wearing handloom has caught on and how. NAVNEET MENDIRATTA traces the trend from where it caught the fancy of India Modern and etched its way into their hearts

The hashtag #IWearHandloom — that was launched as a social media campaign by the Union Textile Minister of India, Smriti Irani, in August 2016 — peaked as a trend in 2017, with people coming out in full support, flaunting the weaves and their pride in India’s heritage. Supported by the Fashion Design Council of India and backed by the Indian fashion fraternity, young and old, many lost weaves got a kiss of life and even got reinterpreted to suit the contemporary flavour.

So if textile conservationist and designer, Madhu Jain, launched bamboo-silk Ikat this year after a research of 15 years in keeping with her commitment to sustainable fashion, noted designer duo Abraham and Thakore celebrated their 25 years in the industry with a unique textile design collaborative with the historic rug-maker Obeetee, earlier this month, where they presented a limited edition of carpets inspired by block print, Bandhani, Ikat, and calligraphy.

Ikat, as all those who have been following or wearing A&T creations would tell you, has been the closest to their hearts. As have been Jamdani, and fine cottons from Bengal, Bandhani from Kutch and Bhuj, Mangalagiri cotton from Andhra, and organic cotton weave from Maheshwar. Translated in industry parlance, this is an indicator of the time a designer spends working on the design and, most importantly, engineering the weave so it meets the test of time and lives up to the benchmark of true living heritage that it stands for.

Among the younger tribe, Pero by Aneeth Arora has won accolades for presenting Khadi, Jamdani, Chanderi in futuristic form, punctuating the design language with colourful and indigenous embroideries and beadwork. Her modern cuts make sure her garments appeal to the Western aesthetics and are a rage among the discerning lot.

Rina Singh of Eka (known for her organic cotton and linen creations), Anavila Misra of Anavila (famous for her linen saris), Sanjay Garg of Raw Mango (sought for his exotic brocades), Rahul Mishra (Merino Wool and Chanderi), Samant Chauhan (Bhagalpur Silk) or Gaurang Shah (with his love for Jamdanis) are only a few other names that reassure India that our weaving legacy is safe and in good hands.

Presentation of textiles as art is another beautiful development that the handloom segment saw this year. After a long time, in September, a rare exhibition revisited the process of the making of zari in a multi-media presentation using photographs, film and video projections, highlighting one of the last ateliers in India committed to keeping this tradition alive.

Presented by textile designers and conservationists from Kolkata, Swati and Sunaina, the exhibition showcased some fine examples of brocaded textiles using gold-coated silver thread and metallic-gilded yarns. These were drawn from private collections, covering the period of the 1940s to the present, including contemporary textiles designed by the duo.

Swati and Sunaina are well known in the luxury weave segment and have worked painstakingly for several years with master weavers in Banaras to re-introduce pure Zari in interpretations of classic designs in saris. Their interpretations of classic Indian designs for brocaded, draped textiles use the purest form of gold-plated silver zari being made today in India. Each of their creation carries a certification that authenticates it for its purity and is breathtaking!

The walls of Bikaner House in the Capital came alive with a well-curated presentation by Mayank Mansingh Kaul that lent the visitors a rare insight into one of the most fascinating weaving traditions of India where molten silver is processed to become spools of silver threads, electro plated with gold and then woven into a textile of silk or cotton.

The use of metallic, gold thread and yarns has been a distinguishing feature of historical textiles around the world. From European brocades and Iranian velvets to Chinese silks and Indian saris, its continuing relevance in contemporary times reflects an enduring human fascination with notions of purity, the sacred, power, nobility, and precious materials, they pointed out. The earliest reference to zari made with gold can be traced to the Rig Veda, which would be 3,000 years ago!

If Gold, the Art of Zari exhibition brought out the hard work put in by Swati and Sunaina to keep the tradition of pure zari alive, textile brand Sarita Handa celebrated its 25th anniversary with a unique textile-art exhibition celebrating their journey. Vintage textiles that have been a part of Handa’s company were reinterpreted into artworks by five artists, who created projects using scrap fabrics and recycled yarn from her workshops.

As part of their collaboration, Satish Gupta, the sculptor, created installations that reflect upon his constant engagement with Zen philosophy and mysticism; designer duo, Gunjan Arora and Rahul Jain used traditional Indian mudras and motifs and wove them with recycled yarn; Arrti Mansinghka tracked the trajectory of the Ganga through patchwork textiles; and contemporary artist Jeevan Xavier focused on the intricate handiwork used for embroidery and sewing for a video project.

For someone who is known to adapt traditional Indian weaving and embroidery techniques and using them in contemporary designs, this exhibition not only served to highlight the design philosophy of Sarita Handa as a brand but also reinstated the faith in the larger textile houses that continue to support the handloom industry.

Many a young girls were seen wearing hand-woven saris in bright silk and traditional weaves, playing dress up with contrasting blouses for festivities and celebrations, while others were just honouring their ‘sari pact’. Another strong name in the luxury weave segment is that of Vidhi Singhania, a textile enthusiast and designer known for concerted efforts to revive Kota as a fabric. She has been breathing strength into the weave by working closely with the weavers and building a steady market for their masterpieces for over two decades. 

A young bride Vidhi had reached out to create something local and original when she moved to Kota with her industrialist husband, Nidhipati Singhania. Eventually, she got so attached to the loom that she ended up playing a very important role in the revival of the weave. Her cluster of weavers has grown manifold, and today, Vidhi stands for not only Kota but also the weaves of Banaras and the rest of the country. She inspires the older weave-loving generation and the young brides alike with resplendent saris in striking combinations and quirky motifs. The survival of the weave is in reinterpretation and focus on quality.

Similarly, when a young Palak Shah decided to spearhead Ekaya by Banaras, after bagging a business management degree from London six years ago, her idea was to reinterpret the traditional weaves from a younger cosmopolitan lot. An extension to the family’s 70-year-old business in handwoven saris and fabric, she has carved a niche for herself by infusing ‘India Modern’ aesthetic with pure traditional craftsmanship and contemporary styling. Creative collaborations with top Indian designers, including A&T, Anupama Dayal, Ashdeen Lilaowala, and Play Clan have only helped strengthen their elite client base.

Thinking ahead is Ekaya’s latest offering that was introduced recently, called Thaan by Ekaya. Aimed at the young, well-travelled lot and those who don’t wear saris every day, Thaan offers a clean canvas that one can play around with and make weaves a part of their lives. A stock of 900-1,000 options in woven fabric at the store ensures the visitors don’t run out of choice or even ideas to create a bespoke garment. There is a lot of weave to play with.

Be it fabric or a garment, with the India Modern getting hooked, the future is bright for the Indian weave. All the promoters seem to worry about, at the moment, is to be able to motivate the existing weaver community to stay hooked and pass their knowledge to the younger ones. Time taken to create a masterpiece and ensuring consistent engagement in terms of job security are only a few of the challenges being faced. While they understand the need for technological interventions and modernisation in processes, efforts are consistently being made to ensure that the quality of the raw material is not compromised upon.

At the same time, efforts are on to educate the clientele as well on the quality of handlooms available in the market today, quality of the raw material, execution as well as design sensibilities. The idea is to make them realise that a handwoven product done with a correct yarn and correct zari is going to be expensive. It cannot be cheap. So go on, be conscious in your choices, support the weaver and flaunt your style. Consistent efforts are the only way the weave would continue to enthrall the generations to come.


Bringing out the other side to master couturier JJ Valaya is his latest presentation — The Alika Project. Unveiled at the Bikaner House on December 20, the project marks his 25 years in the Indian fashion and design industry. A showcase of photographs and installations put together by the man himself was nothing short of a brilliant coming together of fashion and art. His new capsule collection comprised 25 coats based on his signature Alika jacket, wherein, including himself, Valaya got 24 other Indian designers to design a jacket each using Swarovski crystals. These design houses included Pero, Shivan and Narresh, Swati and Sunaina, Nappa Dori, Pernia Qureshi, Gaurav Gupta, Suket Dhir, Ekaya, Amrapali, Payal Pratap Singh, Archana Rao, Nicobar and Tanira Sethi, among others.

The project also commemorates the fashion house’s long-standing relationship with Swarovski. Valaya has himself photographed the collection.




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