Here’s a glimpse of creations to be presented by designers at a fashion event to be held as part of International Workshop on Natural Dyes

The International Workshop on Natural Dyes will begin on March 5, bringing national and international stakeholders under one umbrella, discussing the future of natural dyes in food, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics besides textiles. To highlight the possibilities of using natural dyes in contemporary clothing, a fashion event will be held on March 6 evening at National Institute for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, Yousufguda, coordinated by scientist Sharada Devi of Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University and textile revivalist Asif Shaikh.

“We selected textile experts working with eco-friendly clothing and were strict that they use only natural dyes for this fashion event. Each designer will present six ensembles,” says Asif Shaikh.

Hyderabad-based Sharmila Nagraj Nandula attempts to fuse fashion and astrology through her line Fashtrology, using a technique called horoscope weaving. “We’ve used organic cotton for the gowns and arrived at all 12 colours in the colour wheel using natural dyes,” she says. The outfits will be in muted shades of moss green, indigo blue, yellow, orange and purple.

Those in the know how of the textile industry vouch that some of the best work using indigo is done in Auroville, Pondicherry. Uma Prajapati of Upasana group will present an indigo collection in organic cotton. Titled ‘Blue o’ blue’, it includes Turkish trousers, bias dress teamed up with peasant shirt and more. “This is our first presentation in Hyderabad,” she says.

Another Auroville-based group, Colours of Nature founded by Jesus Ciriza Larraona, will present denims using natural fabrics and dyes. “In partnership with Levi’s, we designed an eco-friendly yarn and used only natural dyes for jeans. We’ll be exhibiting some of these pieces,” says Jesus.

Malaysian designer Edric Ong is bringing to town his Bugaku 2014 collection. “I’ve used colours derived from roots, barks, leaves and fruit-peels from the rainforests,” says Edric, who won the UNESCO-ASEAN Crafts Seal of Excellence. For Bugaku 2014, he drew inspiration from the Japanese Edo period and applied the technique of wood-clamped shibori on hand-spun, hand-woven silks from the Laotian/Thai border. “The geometrical motifs are found in the old Bugaku kimonos,” he adds.

The surprise factor will be Neil Lee from Taiwan, a hotel management graduate making his debut as a designer. “Sharada Devi and I met Neil at a conference in Taiwan a few years ago where he was our interpreter. I later learnt that he spends his free time learning indigo dyeing among other things. I encouraged him to develop his line and in two months, he showed me his creations. As a 23-year-old, he understands the need to design for a younger clientele. His line will have three stitched ensembles and three drapes,” explains Asif.

Another young duo at the event will be Shantanu Das and Chirag Gandhi of Maku textiles. “Shantanu is an engineer and I am an alumnus of National Institute of Design. We don’t go by trends; our garments will be classy and stylish enough to be worn a decade hence,” says Chirag. Currently working on reviving the ‘tangail’ weave of West Bengal, they will showcase indigo-dyed garments in khadi with jamdhani.

Also watch out for creations of Shivani Nirula from Delhi, Villoo Mirza from Ahmedabad, Bina Rao and Kaveri from Hyderabad and Kolkata’s Weavers Studio besides Asif Shaikh himself. A researcher on Indian embroideries, Ahmedabad-based Asif has participated in international exhibitions. “This is the first time I will be showcasing in India,” he says.

Sharada Devi and her team will also be presenting a collection of evening gowns and skirts in cotton and cora silk, woven with the help of weavers in Hindupur.

Among all this, imagine a non-garment line of work presented without models. Christa Obuchowski from Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a perfumer with 20 years of experience. The audience will get a whiff of her perfumes that use plant-based ingredients. For three minutes, the aromas combined with Anushka Sharma’s strumming of the sitar will do the talking. “When we use botanical dyes and perfumes, we’re doing more than just putting colour to fabric or creating a pretty scent. We are establishing a stronger connection to the earth,” sums up Christa.

Beyond reach?

Garments using indigo and other natural dyes often come with price labels that make the average consumer uncomfortable. A few retail outlets sourcing from weavers have managed to stock up everyday garments at an affordable price range. But stylish ensembles in natural dyes still remain expensive owing to the intensive labour and smaller volumes of production. Jesus Ciriza Larraona argues, “In our case, it’s taken us several years to master the technique of making denims using natural fibres and colours. Unlike large companies, we don’t have sophisticated machinery. However, prices will come down if there’s more demand.”

Chirag Gandhi agrees and says more demand and hence production will help cut costs. Uma Prajapati adds, “All of us are committed to making sustainable clothing and pricing is not an issue.”