Going the organic way

Designer Neesha Amrish talks to T. Krithika Reddy about the intricacies involved in creating organic clothing.

September 04, 2014 04:09 pm | Updated 05:13 pm IST

One of Neesha's designs. Photo: Special Arrangement

One of Neesha's designs. Photo: Special Arrangement

She has built a label block by block! When Neesha Amrish began a one-table fabric printing unit in T. Nagar, Chennai, six years ago, she never imagined she would survive the winds of change sweeping the fashion industry.

“All I could see in the market was machine-made fabric with kilos of bling. And here I was, working in a non-descript studio trying to go organic with block prints and homespun textiles.”

But her vibrant colour stories, delicate motifs and fuss-free styling attracted a steady stream of clients and she progressed from a one-table unit to a six-table, two-level studio in Tiruvanmiyur, where she displays saris, stoles, ethnic suits, fusion wear, jewellery and knick knacks made of organic textiles.

Hand-woven, organic, eco-friendly… these words are tossed around in the fashion circuit like never before. But are designers and patrons seriously getting into the intricacies of what it takes to produce organic clothing? “Unlike the food scene where awareness has caught on, people are yet to relate to organic clothing. ‘Organic’ cannot be a mere marketing jargon. It involves steadfast commitment. I have a set of niche clients and expats who buy them as souvenirs. Sadly, in India, organic is associated with grown-up fashion. Youngsters think it’s for their mothers. And women think it’s for social activists. I had to change that. My label, Aeshaane, features trendy palazzo pants and stoles in hand-woven silk for people who want to experiment with silhouettes,” says Neesha, whose collections occupy a significant spot in upscale stores such as Taj Khazana (in Taj hotels across the country), Mogra at Leela Palace in Bengaluru and Elan in Ahmedabad.

About half-a-dozen fashion houses in Europe too showcase her brand. You can spot well-known people such as Feroze Gujral, Suhasini Mani Ratnam, Tanvi Shah and Barkha Dutt in Aeshaane stoles.

The big push to Neesha’s efforts came when she was given opportunities by the Handloom Export Promotion Council to showcase her creations at the Who’s Next exposition in Paris (for three consecutive years from 2012) and at the annual HEPC fashion show in Chennai last year.

“The global appeal of our textiles is incredible. A lady from Spain who visited my booth this year purchased all the 100 stoles outright! She was fascinated by the texture and colour schemes. A representative from the Victoria and Albert Museum too has approached me to create a line for them before August 2015,” says Neesha, who honed her hand-skills with the help of traditional block printers in West Bengal after completing a course at the National School of Design in Chennai.

To ensure a secure place for her work internationally, she has applied for a Global Organic Textile Standard certification. “It’s not easy getting it. You have to comply with a severe set of rules. A GOTS representative is sent here to look into everything – from how you source raw materials to what you use for tagging! End-to-end, the processing has to be completely organic.”

Neesha’s fabrics are hand-spun, hand-printed silk and cotton in vivid colours. The motifs range from Nature-inspired patterns to abstract geometry. “I’m kindled by the potato in my kitchen, leaves and twigs in my garden and simple squares and circles.” Half-and-half patterns and an inventive use of colour make the sari collection stand out. As for the salwar suits and tunics, the styling is simple. “I want the textile to do the talking, that’s why I prefer streamlined silhouettes and keep the creations embellishment-free,” says Neesha, who is currently putting together a collection to be shown in Hong Kong Fashion Week in January next year.

“After that, I will display my collection at the New York Fashion Week in October 2015,” she beams. With a tinge of sadness, she quickly adds, “People outside the country seem to recognise the work. But I’ve not been able to showcase my lines at our own national pageants. It’s still an uphill task for people from Chennai aspiring to get there.”

Aeshaane Ph: 98840-34516.

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