When Neeru Kumar decided to show her Fall/Winter line at Fashion Week, she created quite a flutter. Reason: it was her first fashion show in three decades! The textile whiz's elegant and understated styles became a persuasive point in a pageant that witnessed a blatant nod to the West. ‘Tradition with a contemporary twist' has been the leitmotif of this NID-educated designer; this season is no exception.

Neeru Kumar's new line is being showcased in Chennai, at Evoluzione, Nungambakkam, from today. The silhouettes are relaxed without compromising on the traditional feeling of luxury. Recast with self-effacing skill, her ikats and jamdanis lend themselves to the soft architecture of her creations. The saris come in subtle colour schemes (think slate with salmon pink) and some are lavishly embroidered. Here's a quick five from the New Delhi-based designer…

TRADITION IS TIMELESS My design philosophy is about incorporating fashion trends within a traditional template. Textiles and crafts inspire me enough to keep my creativity going season after season. This time, I've tried jamdani on heavy silks in appealing hues. And twisted the ikat weave too to create graphic pieces.

WOVEN LEGACY My heart gravitates to traditional hand skills. I went to study at NID, Ahmedabad, because I loved the looms there. Ever since I passed out, I've been engaged in recasting conventional weaves and crafts to suit modern tastes. I've also used recycled fabrics to created quilted jackets and shawls perked up with exquisite kantha embroidery. It was a trend I started 15 years ago. The rage continues to this day…

THE BIG DIFFERENCE It's hard to believe, but true. It's easier to convince the overseas market about the nuances of Indian crafts and textiles than people in the domestic market. West or East (markets in Japan), fashionistas are simply floored by our hand skills. In India, it remains a niche segment. It's tough to satisfy a customer here about the skills or cost involved in creating something with the hand. And to add to the weavers' woes, mills replicate traditional fabrics at half the cost!

THINK YOUNG That's the biggest challenge. Designers focussing on rearticulating traditional crafts have to think about ways to draw the young crowd. We have such a rich legacy. We can't let it fade into oblivion and let the Zaras of the world take over. When I started out in the 1980s, it was easy getting weavers to create complicated designs. Today, it's not easy even to find weavers.

THE NEERU WOMAN She's someone who appreciates the nitty-gritty of textiles and is individualistic about her style choices. Someone who thinks out-of-the-ordinary to make a statement. She wouldn't hesitate to carry off a graceful sari with a jacket that smacks of tough-chic!

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