Péro showcase at Barakhamba Road in New Delhi is an episodic exhibition that presents the practice of the brand. Navneet Mendiratta speaks to its creator
Bungalow number 13 on Barakhamba Road is radiating love these days. Painted red hearts on its old-world yellow façade attract many a curious looks from the passerbys, tempting them to pause and take a look at what secrets the building holds inside.
This is the space where Péro, India’s leading clothing design label, is showcasing an episodic exhibition presenting the practice of Péro, titled Time for Love. The showcase commemorates the tenth anniversary of Péro.
From the characteristic edge of fabric woven on looms from all corners of this country to the silhouette and story of every garment passing through numerous hands — there is love, labour and time — the essential ingredients of Péro-making. An India Art Fair Parallel event, the showcase is an experience of detail where the principle artwork is the becoming of a Péro garment over 42 days, made with love, over time.
As we gather our first impressions of the showcase, we speak to Aneeth Arora, textile and dress maker and the founder of the brand. Excerpts from our conversation:
On the showcase
I felt it was time that people understood what goes into the making of a Péro garment. Even though it looks like a simple white garment, there is a lot that goes into making one. We do everything by hand. Once the garment is off the machine, every seam is hemmed on both sides. Thereafter, details are added. The buttons are handmade, the labels are hand embroidered… So, the idea is just to celebrate time and see what comes out when you are actually giving time and love to something.
The atmosphere here is very edgy, very shiny and it’s a very personal thing. We have always felt that even though we are in the world of fashion, we never really were a part of it. This is because our way of looking at things is very different. Fashion is all about change and pace. For long, we didn’t realise that we were spending so much time on what we were making, still trying to be a part of that world. The environment here is a symbol of that. It’s a showcase of how within this glamorous environment, this humble dress woven in so many regions of India still holds a place of its own. This is exactly what people have loved us for!
Revival is a big word. I wouldn’t say it is a conscious attempt, but our philosophy is such that we work with age-old techniques. We are very old school in the kind of things that we do and when we do work with those techniques, it brings back nostalgia. That is when people think it is revival. I am just enjoying the old school techniques and using them in our clothes.
To me, revival is when you do something over and over again and other people start following suit. Soon, you have a lot of people working on the craft and it is no longer lost. It happened with jamdani. The first season we used it, there were very few weavers doing it — at least not in this very fine cotton. We lost the order that season, because we could not weave the required fabric. You see, it takes a weaver a week to weave 3 metres of that fine cloth. We tend to use a lot of fabric when we make a flared garment. Eventually, we used it in the next season. Suddenly, there was this wave and there were almost 300 weavers weaving jamdani and people started calling this revival. For me, it was the fabric they found which was still in the market.
10 years-worth documentation
At NID, they taught us how to document the process well. And that is one thing that really stayed with me. From day one, we have been keeping a copy of every fabric, every button, every trimming that we have ever made. That was my way of documenting it. And now, I am using 10 years as an excuse to look at our archives, document each thing and show it to people. You feel the evolution when you see it all in its entirety.
We are using this opportunity to document it all digitally as well as physically, making note of each of our collaborations. We turn 10 this June 13. And that is when, we will close our archives.
The big reveal
In these 42 days, we will slowly unbox all that we have so painstakingly stored over the past decade and reveal our archives. Every day we will open and reveal a new segment. We will look at the prime elements of Péro — like the buttons that people identify us with or the hearts or the dolls. We will assign a room each to these elements — like the dolls of Péro, the hearts of Péro, button of Péro, textiles of People — and invite people to see our world.
India art fair connect
Initially, when we thought of doing things together, it was a collaboration between a fashion label and Art Fair. But eventually they realised that what we do is also a kind of art. So we thought of this showcase. Just like an artist works on his installation or art, we have our people working on each and every piece that comes out of Péro. Each of our garment is unique like any other art piece.
Unlike the usual Péro event, which is all fun and frolic, this event is a very quiet one. Visitors can clearly see that it is about understanding quality and time invested in it. And that is what makes everyone, including ourselves, pause.
Inspirations from other cultures
We do it all the time. If you look at the showcase garment, you will notice that the sleeves are Spanish and the yoke reminds you of a kediyu from Gujarat. Péro is all about mixing — we mix fabrics, we mix techniques, we also mix cultures.
I always give the example of an angrakha. In India, you look at it as an ethnic garment because you know the context. But when it goes overseas, you see it as a wrap. Perhaps to be worn as an overlay with a pair of jeans and T-shirt. So we like to put the same piece out for people to interpret it in their own way. We are not emphasising on the fact that it is an Indian silhouette. Because it is mix of a lot of things, it is an angrakha with a European lace. The moment you put a garment outside its context, people look at it differently.
On being sustainable
This is the other part of our messaging. When you spend so much on a piece… so much that when you own it, it becomes like an heirloom. You take care of it. And because you own that beautiful piece, you don’t want more. And when you do give it to someone else, you also reduce the demand for that person.
That’s what we say about our clothes. When you own, let’s say, 10 of our beautiful couture pieces, you don’t feel the need to own more. Because we are not about fast fashion. And when people see a piece and they see that someone has spent time on it, they do not want to discard it and that is where sustainability comes, where we reduce fashion waste. You may spend more but you are really investing in quality and time.
— The showcase is on till March 14