If international fashion brands can use maple prints, why can’t we use prints of indigenous trees? Aratrik Devvarman pays homage to seven Indian trees through his unconventional line

Aratrik Devvarman is a designer, habitual photographer and a nature lover. In the last eight years, he kept clicking photographs of trees during his travels. He shot images of leaves against the blue sky in all their colours as well as silhouettes. One fine day, when he was looking through these photographs, he saw a narrative emerging. He felt these images would work well as prints on home furnishings. “It was an organic process. I didn’t know the photographs would lend themselves to a new line,” says the soft-spoken Devvarman, speaking to us at Anonym, ahead of the launch of his line ‘7 trees’.

The line of home furnishings make use of prints of seven trees, each chosen by the designer for its distinct attribute — peepal (religious), mango (fruit), gulmohar (flower), neem (medicinal), aso palav (ceremonial) fishtail palm (toddy wine) and badam (nut). “I blew up the size of these leaves and the play of black on white (khadi) was magical. We’ve seen maple and fur on clothing, so I thought why not base them in an Indian cultural context,” he says. The range includes bedspreads, cushion throws and much more.

Devvarman’s clothing range and home linen are all made with khadi, in different weights and textures, sourced from various parts of the country. An alumnus of National Institute of Design, Devvarman founded his brand of clothing called ‘Tilla’ (tilla stands for a hill; Devvarman fondly remembers his hillside home in Agartala) with hand-spun fabric as its backbone.

As a young designer learning his craft, Devvarman worked with clusters in Kutch, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, West Bengal, North East and Madhya Pradesh working with weavers. “I worked with Bandhini craftsmen in Kutch — at Mundra, Bhuj and Mandvi — for six months helping them give a contemporary expression to their products. We designed products for an Italian client,” he mentions. Devvarman’s exposure to international fashion widened during an exchange programme to Paris, which stretched to two years. “I was good in academics but I was sure I’d be miserable if I took a traditional academic route after school. Though I don’t come from a family that was into arts and crafts, fashion came naturally to me,” he says.

The designer abides by relaxed silhouettes that flatter different body types and works towards creating effortless yet stylish clothing for women. “She can dress up or dress them down using accessories or layer it up for a different occasion. These clothes withstand seasonal fashion trends. Who changes clothes each season according to fashion trends? I don’t,” says Devvarman. The breathable cotton and khadi clothes are pre-washed, pre-shrunk, he says, to make them easy to use. “The dresses and flowy kurtas are all made for women who move around for work in the city, want to stay elegant and stylish all-day long,” he sums up.