The concept of sustainable fashion is, at last, winning recognition. Nurturing the ideology are those fashion designers who are giving Indian textiles and weaves a facelift of sorts on the runway and off it. They have created an intellectual aspiration in their wearers by sustaining the weave, making design interventions and introducing eco-friendly techniques. Meet five designers with a green thumb who are marrying fair-trade practices with their creativity.
RAW MANGO BY SANJAY GARG
Raw Mango is a textile brand and so, has always believed in adding value and innovation to the loom. “Our endeavour to explore the textile of mashru weaving techniques in Varanasi have been about incorporating tradition and experimenting with raw materials, colours, patterns and so on. We look forward to celebrating mashru textile and its lost glory today, two centuries after its antiquation. The idea of working with mashru first arose after coming across a heavy satin fabric called ‘gyaser’ made for Tibetan monks. It is one of the satin fabrics with silk warp and weft widely woven in Varanasi. Our design process presented us with the possibility of being able to create new patterns as a result of working with those patterns which can be made only with weft floats,” Sanjay says. It is woven alongside a soft cotton body, thus making it easier to drape, and so, easily adapted for saris, dupattas and stoles, consequently making the textile more relevant and giving it new life by adding to its repertoire. The traditional backing has been replaced with wool, khadi and zari, making the two-layered fabric suitable for many different purposes.
In the past, craft traditions were victim to changes in socio-economic conditions, Varanasi started out with a weaving tradition of fine muslin and later became a silk weaving hub. Today, Varanasi is synonymous to silk weaves. “Mashru is at a similar point in time where it will adapt in whichever way required to continue to be relevant in the future,” explains Sanjay
GRASSROOT BY ANITA DONGRE
The brand Grassroot was born out of the need to provide steady opportunities to India’s skilled artisan communities, translating heirloom traditions from the heart of Indian villages to contemporary, sustainable fashion. Through Grassroot, Anita Dongre collaborates with independent artisans and NGOs across India to empower the craftsman and help create more viable livelihoods. Her work with the artisans is aimed at reversing the effects of labour migration by embracing craft traditions that go back generations. Natural dyes find their way into this clothes, reminiscent of tribal Indian traditions. Through embroidery, we see the birds, flowers and leaves that have lived in these villages longer than the people. Handwoven fabrics, adorned with traditional patterns are seen in a truly universal light, as new silhouettes and fresh designs with a global appeal take the centrestage. “We acknowledge that handcrafts take time, they won’t submit to a schedule,” Anita says.
Every piece of fabric weaved, block printed or embroidered is done by a group of artisans who give it the time and attention it deserves. In respecting the care that goes into each piece these villages produce, each season is broken down into months, delivering products as they come in, giving fashion the slow, steadfast care it deserves. The Grassroot woman embraces progress, with a steady hand on sustainable traditions of the past. Traditions that hold within them the potential to measure up or even surpass all else in a contemporary world giving her the opportunity to revel in the nature.
He raises the bar with his sustainable collections featuring upcycled industrial by-products. He knows that being conscious of one’s environment doesn’t simply mean going organic. He reinvents the old (and often considered useless) into something relevant with his designs aesthetics. His creations are inspired by millions of traditional saris that after having taken months of craftsmanship are left only to be rendered unusable, like unclaimed pieces of heritage. He looks at changing their identity and giving it a new purpose in the hope that they, the saris, can live a longer and more fruitful life. Ripped Patola saris are restored by using modern industrial treatments through responsible design ethics to strengthen the fabric and rearrange to convert it into a whole new product. A sari that is fading away is once again given meaning by changing its application which in turn brings about new feelings and expresses new values. The unstitched nature of the textile is modernised with structured silhouettes and strengthened by bonding, pleating or weaving.
“It always starts from the simplest of things, such as trying to reuse everyday things at home like polybags and plastic bottles. Producing less waste is the best way to sustain a healthy lifestyle and environment. Designers can influence society and bring about a productive change which can inspire more people. The creative community needs to take the lead and do things to protect resources to revert to a healthier ecosystem,” says Amit.
Known for her extensive experimentation with textiles in which she innovates unique blends that are characteristically true to her made-inIndia, natural fibres label. Her speciality lies in developing textiles in distinctive combinations of two different weaving traditions from two geographies to create something new of impeccable quality from sustainable sources and design. Craft revivalist and textile conservationist Madhu Jain’s latest collection of Uzbekistan-inspired ikat takes this weaving craft style to another level, aptly earning her the moniker of the First Lady of Ikat. Here, she primarily showcases a sublime blend of two ancient weaving cultures — Indian and Uzbeki — and the result is captivating.
This collection bears Madhu’s inimitable stamp of exquisite craftsmanship, striking design and an exceptional colour palette. Crafted in jewel tones, and typically in rich silk, Uzbeki ikat, which was primarily worn by nobles or the wealthy catered to their sensibility and desires. And so, the fabric is typically rich silk, the motifs are bold, and the colours jewel-toned. Madhu just had to recreate some of that magic by blending Indian ikat weaves with Uzbeki. The challenge lay in the span of the fabric, Uzbeki ikat is barely 10-12 inches wide. It took months of meticulous research and weaving to get the convergence just right. Madhu’s Uzbeki collection is a first in India, and she continues to innovate, adding Indian elements into it.