Rakesh Thakore de-constructs his design philosophy and says A&T derives its strength from the understanding of Indian weaves

Rakesh Thakore first visited Andhra Pradesh 25 years ago, as a student of National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad. Eager to learn about ikat, he looked beyond the oft-frequented Pochampally and travelled to Nalgonda region. “I commuted by trains, buses, trucks and even bullock carts to reach non-descript villages and worked with weavers. From there, I also travelled to Warangal to understand how dhurries are woven,” recalls the designer who is now in the city to unveil his new collection at Elahe, Banjara Hills.

Synergy of weaves

Back then, Rakesh nudged the dhurry makers in Warangal to incorporate ikat in their weaves. That was the beginning of a learning process of Indian handlooms. “There’s so much to ikat, characterised by geometrical patterns in weaves that come from AP, motifs from Orissa and Gujarat has some ikat patterns unique to the state,” he says.

Rakesh can talk at length about jamdhanis of Bengal, hand-woven cottons and silks from Kanchi, weaves from Banaras and embroidery techniques from different parts of the country. He doesn’t subscribe to the term ‘revival’ of handlooms. “Our weaves aren’t being revived; they’ve always been around. More people are aware today,” he says. Rakesh attributes his understanding of handlooms to the foundation he and David Abrahaman received during their graduation years at NID. “We were taught the relevance of Indian traditions and textiles. I have worked with handlooms since the time I graduated,” says Rakesh.

Rakesh grew up in Tanzania in a farmhouse spread across 4000 acres while David Abraham grew up in Singapore. They met at NID, became friends for life and later joined hands to form the Abraham and Thakore (A&T) label in New Delhi. Their first standalone store came up in Delhi in 2002. They were among the first designers to have standalone stores, paving the way for more designer stores in Delhi.

International recognition

They began with garments and accessories before moving on to home collection. Today, a limited edition lounge wear collection from A&T is available at Harrods, London. Their work has been exhibited as part of textile exhibitions at Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris among other international exhibitions. As Rakesh speaks at length about the international recognition, it’s clear the emphasis is on texture, detailing and quality.

Given their span of work and the name that precedes the label, one would expect their clothes to be priced at a premium. Interestingly, most garments of A&T remain affordable. “Why overprice something and make it out of reach?” shrugs Rakesh.

While being absolutely comfortable in a handloom cotton shirt and designing collections in handloom scarves, saris, jackets and kurtas, Rakesh also recognises the need for chiffons and georgettes. “Handlooms are practical. But if you’re catering to a client who has to rush from the airport to a board meeting, you need to offer her wrinkle-free clothes as well,” he says.

The core clientele of A&T is working women above 35. “Most of our customers have a good understanding of fabrics, silhouettes and prefer to dress according to their body type. They are not trying to ‘fit in’ by wearing clothes that don’t flatter them,” he says.

Dressing for the season

A&T’s autumn winter 2012 line, unveiled at Elahe, spells classy elegance. Hand-woven silks, cottons, a diligent mix of georgette and silk and pashmina transform into a wearable collection that bears in mind the contours of a regular Indian woman. Saris and salwar kameez dupatta sets apart, there are jackets and tunics that can be teamed up with saris, a pair of jeans or slim-fit trousers. The emphasis is on aesthetics, leaving no room for mindless bling. The occasional presence of sequins is also understated and dresses up the garment without making it look over the top. A hint of jamdhani, geometric ikat weaves and embroidery from Gujarat add a sense of timelessness to the garments. A limited range of men’s shirts and kurtas is also part of the collection.