In button town

Is it a bag? Is it a vest? Oh it’s both, and also a cap! At first, Anuj Sharma’s clothes feel like an optical illusion. But, once he explains his unusual technique using rubberbands and buttons, it all falls into place. “It’s the fastest way to make a garment. Takes me three minutes on an average,” he says and adds, “I am a lazy person and always wanted to do something quick and easy. That’s when, in 2009, I came up with this process of using only buttons to create clothes. And, in the same year, I launched my label Button Masala.”

The idea came when he saw a man on the road wearing a shirt with the buttons in the wrong loops. It got Anuj thinking — what if he could put a bunch of buttons and use a simple grid system in an outfit, which would create endless ways of wearing it, depending on how it’s buttoned. In 2010, after further experiments, he added rubberbands to his clothes-making procedure.

“With such combinations, I can make a million designs,” says the alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. The 43-year-old was happy with the way his clothes were doing. He showcased at Lakme Fashion Week for seven years, but then noticed that while clients bought his creations, they weren’t really trying out the various combinations and creating new ones on their own. “I figured that if you make something for people, you first need to give them a taste of it. So, I started organising workshops. I stopped participating in fashion weeks and focussed on teaching people how to wear my clothes and what can be done with them,” says Anuj, who showcased his collection at FunkyFish’s pop-up event Desi Tadka in the city.

This, he says, is also a way of making people believe in themselves and their ability to create something. It works equally well for followers of the minimalist trend, who can buy one piece and use it in different ways.

Looking at my puzzled expression, he pulls out a shimmery black outfit. It’s got a cluster of black buttons in the centre. “What is this?” he asks. “A poncho,” I reply. “Yes, but it’s also a skirt, a halter neck top and a dress,” he announces. Giving a quick demo he shows how it works — “There are four pieces of fabric here; I stitched buttons on the side and buttoned them together. Now, according to your preference, you can unbutton and re-button them as you like, to create your own silhouette.”

Using the same technique, Button Masala also does upholstery, shoes, luggage covers and carpets that look like flowers strung together, lights and art installations. The production unit is based out of Ahmedabad. Anuj rides around the city on his bike, shops for materials and brings them back to the unit. Anuj and another craftsman put together the pieces.

Currently, Button Masala has a store there and also retails out of multi-label outlets in Mumbai, Goa and Kolkata; the latter is where his largest clientèle is. “I work at my own pace. I don’t believe in manufacturing just because you can sell,” he adds.

Sometimes, Anuj substitutes buttons with sequins, coins, bottle caps, metal containers, balls, cups... His choice of fabrics includes cottons, knits and flowy mulmuls and georgettes. Because he makes one size that fits all, there is no stress of fittings and alterations. He likes to call them “happy fits”.

“That’s why I told you this is the most reasonable, eco-friendly and sustainable way of making clothes. There is hardly any wastage because our clothes are rectangular; there is no need to cut the fabric,” says Anuj. He lays emphasis on restructuring, recycling and upcycling in his workshops, where he’s already trained 20,000 people across India, Europe and Africa. Given the simplicity and how economical it is, many college students are applying the ‘Button Masala’ technique to their clothes for fashion shows.

And, Anuj is more than happy with others replicating his method. “No technique should be exclusive,” he says, and dashes into another session where eager kids try making clothes. His day started at 5 a.m., he landed in Chennai at 9 a.m., it’s his second workshop for the day and his to-do list is far from over. “But, I’m not complaining. It’s a money-making day!” he smiles.

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Printable version | Jan 15, 2021 2:42:01 PM |

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