Tired of spotting Western influences on the ramp? For a change, Textile Day at the upcoming Lakme Fashion Week will celebrate Indian-ness in a big way. T. Krithika Reddy talks to three designers about the warp and weft of their work

Vikram Phadnis hits the rural route for inspiration. Gaurang Shah readies his gossamer-like handwoven fabrics for the spotlight. And Shruti Sancheti revisits the Swadeshi movement to give an urban update to indigenous textiles…

It’s going to be a profusion of creative energies at Indian Textile Day scheduled to take place on March 25, in Mumbai, as part of Lakme Fashion Week. Instead of investing in a mine of sequins and stones and ordering reams of factory-finished chiffon and georgette, designers will focus their attention on charming handloom textiles and sumptuous hand skills.

Country roads…

Vikram, famous for styling Bollywood stars in sheer fabrics, chic cuts and shades demanding bling, sees Textile Day as a refresher course on the potential of rural India. “I was stirred by the Swades Foundation and its efforts to bring about irreversible change through rural empowerment. I travelled to Raigad District (where the foundation works extensively) for a firsthand experience of life in the villages. I was stirred by the success stories and decided to take rural India to the runways. I decided to put rural India on the ramp because it's about untold success stories”

The Sun “that gives without asking for anything in return” is the leitmotif of the line. Vikram has used Indian textiles and a palette comprising vibrant red, orange and mustard. “Through this line I hope to inspire pride among urban folks about the achievement of our rural people despite their limited resources,” says the designer.

Nostalgic notes

Can haute styles have homespun inspirations? With her heart in history and mind on fashion, Shruti was always fascinated by the Swadeshi movement and the revival of all things desi that it brought with it. “Nowhere in the world will you find such a rich legacy of handmade textiles and crafts. The art of handwoven fabrics will fade into oblivion if there is no continued patronage,” says the Nagpur-based designer who has worked with the Maharashtra Weavers Centre to come up with inventive handwoven fabrics that are a mix of cotton and silk yarns for a collection. “The textiles are traditional with interesting twists, but the styling is global in its appeal. Handloom is versatile; you can achieve rare feats of draping with it! Watch out for my collection at LFW…” Incidentally, the Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi has sent Shruti a letter lauding her efforts at giving khadi a haute look.

Cocktail of crafts

Hyderabad-based designer Gaurang Shah will present a cocktail of crafts from some of the Northern states. Caressing kota, delicate chikankari and exquisite jamdani weaves are the highlight of his rose-inspired “Gulbadan” collection. “This line is a tribute to work-intensive Indian craft traditions. Having honed my skills by working closely with over 450 weavers in my 13-year stint in fashion, I was able to tweak weaves and textures to come up with some superfine fabrics. The jamdani weave that I’ve used involves laborious weaving techniques. When we do a work audit at the end of the day, we realise that we have woven only two inches! But the outcome is amazing. The flowers look like they are appliquéd on the fabric. They are actually Mughal-inspired floral motifs on woven fabric,” says the designer.

Gaurang’s is a line of flowing floor-length anarkalis that are perfectly pitched between traditional and modern. Most of the outfits are created using over 20 metres of fabric. Yet, they don’t look like a manic excursion into the realm of fantasy costume. “The palette moves from off-white and chocolate to opaque black. And yes, the showstopper will don a sari. I’ve completed the look for each garment with bangles made of raw silk and footwear made of ethnic materials.”

He hastens to add, “Trysts with tradition must not become a publicity exercise. It must be a sustained effort.”

FASHION EQUATION

One of the garments that Gaurang Shah has created (see sketch) uses 28 metres of fabric for the gathers. It will be worn by a model with a 28-inch waist. “It was quite a task squeezing in one metre of fabric into every inch! We succeeded because the cotton fabric that was woven was superfine. It’s all-out feminine – from fabric and cut to the delicate floral motifs that are used to accentuate the theme of Gulbadan. To me, it’s a lyrical play with handloom.”

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has written to Shruti congratulating her for creating a collection based on the Swadeshi Movement. “May the spirit of Swadeshi spread self-reliance with grace and glamour,” he said. “It is high time to market the handmade, environment-friendly fabric to stand out in a crowd as the tallest of all as Brand India.”

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