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The men are now relaxed and even begin to crack jokes between them, in our presence. “Okay, let me hold the pallu while you hold the blouse,” laughs Chandrashekar, adding: “except that we would not dare do such a thing if the sari was draped on a woman.” They laugh. “Yeah, the emphasis is more on the craft rather than on fashion — be it weaving, printing or anything,” adds Ravi Kiran. They have worked mainly with khadi. So there are saris, duppattas and stoles and a few shirts for men. The reason they work with khadi is “because so many people are involved in it. Everything is hand-made — spinning, weaving, printing etc. It's beautiful because though you may find a few imperfections, it's created by a human hand and not a machine,” explains Chandrashekar.
“They are soulful imperfections created with a skilled hand,” adds Ravikiran. The two designers have also worked with the Khadi Village Industries Board (KVIB), a State-run organisation. “We are a part of a bigger cycle. Designing, for us, is not about being authentic for the sake of authenticity, but it's a combination of ideas and beliefs.”
“We want to popularise khadi. Call us khadi bearers for we have been able to generate enough work for the weavers, who are in the ‘ventilator' stage. And you know, nothing is more natural than khadi?,” asks Ravikiran. “Lot of hand work is involved and we feel good for we are not creating for the mass consumer,” says Chandrashekar.
“But it's not a niche approach. We do not choose our customers. Khadi is our forte,” says Ravi Kiran. He then goes on to explain the various kinds of khadi. “We have a coarse khadi in Karnataka while the finest ones are created in West Bengal. People think that khadi is a stiff material and does not drape. But with every wash the fabric becomes softer and more breathable and gets gentle on the skin,” explains Ravikiran.
The two have used techniques like hand printing, stencilling and stamping and stitching in their designs. “There are so many elements in designing. We discover new things by accident and enjoy these accidents, which are included in our design vocabulary,” says Chadrashekar.
Ravi Kiran and Chandrashekar travel extensively to work with traditional weavers. “The plight of the weavers makes us take a different stand. The ground reality is very sad. Since everything is hand made, even a slight mistake is discarded as ‘damaged',” says Ravikiran.
“So much lobbying has happened in the fashion industry that only machine-made is considered perfect. It all began when education came in. It became imperative and a major leap in technology happened where man was forced to learn to operate machines. From there came the downfall of the weavers,” explains Chandrashekar passionately.
“Because of this, we prefer to call ourselves artisans and not designers. We are a part of the khadi-weaving family. We are just an extension of the weavers. The more popular khadi becomes, the more conducive it will be for the weavers. We also do not fit into the category of ‘fashion designers' because fashion for us is not the flavour of the season nor does it change every three months,” says Ravikiran.
Seeing their work, you are surprised that the two have not been trained in fashion or design but made the leap into this career out of their sheer love for the fabric. Their work is sober and yet classy and easy on the eye with perfect contrasting weaves and techniques.
“We don't design out of passion. The word ‘passion' is very clichéd. For us design in to create a bridge between the producer and the consumer. We feel that our khadi designs will appeal only to those few who are craft oriented and understand the beauty of creation,” concludes Chandrashekar. “That's right. Khadi was born out of an ideology. You were supposed to make your own fabric and wear them. It was never meant to be sold,” says Ravikiran.
Their store Metaphor Racha is at #175-1, Pavilion Road, 1st block, East Jayanagar. The designers can be contacted on 98860-52080/ 98451-82639.