Rohit Bal on his collection featuring work from Kashmir

“The emotional strength of this collection is where its uniqueness lies. The fact that Kashmiri women artisans are living in the middle of a war zone, yet they’ve made such exquisite pieces within a stipulated period, that too in freezing weather, speaks for their skills and hard work,” says Rohit Bal. The designer is describing the making of his collection Guldastah that was launched at his store in Defence Colony, after its outing at Lakme Fashion Week. He talks of his personal connect with Kashmir, in these excerpts from an interview:

How did the idea of partnering with Usha Silai for fashion week, come about?

Jaspreet Chandok, vice president and Head of Fashion, IMG Reliance broached the idea. Being a Kashmiri I jumped at it. I am very happy that this is happening as a long-term project. In all, there are 15 women; they’re all educated. It was a great pleasure to meet and interact with them.

What was the process of collaboration?

The embroidery and printing were done by us. We sent them sketches, patterns and trims. They stitched everything with the help of patterns. Kashmir is already blessed with talent. This is proof of that. . The best part is that they have never done anything like this before. We went through a long process of editing. What was not good, was sent back. On the whole though, they did more than what I expected.

Take us through your collection.

This is an initiative by Usha Silai that travels to different parts of the country. In this case, it went to Kashmir, where it worked with training the women for two months. It has been so encouraging that we are doing the whole exercise again; the second lot will soon be available.

What was the meeting point?

I am a Kashmiri anyway. So every collection of mine invariably has an imprint of the Valley. I didn’t have to change my style of work.

Did you ever feel it was a risk?

At the Lakme Fashion Week we got a 10-minute standing ovation. There’s always a risk, whether I make a collection or some other designer does. It’s worth taking this sort of risk.

Tell us about the embellishments.

We used embroideries and prints in floral motifs. In Kashmir, wool is the only fabric used. Here, it is difficult to sell wool. Cotton and Chanderi and silk have been sourced from Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and parts of South India. Having been born and brought up in the Valley, flowers are all-important for me. Every flower grows there. I remember right from the time while I was growing up in Srinagar and Gulmarg, I was surrounded by flowers like tulips, sunflowers. In fact, poppies are everywhere in my collection. Chrysanthemum was another flower I’ve used. In Gulmarg, there were daffodils, Nargis, daisies which are all in this collection.

Rohit Bal on his collection featuring work from Kashmir

Kashmir is famous for pristine white topography. How difficult was it to replicate that, yet look unique?

It was not difficult at all. White is my favourite colour. So I did not have to make an extra effort. The collection also has greys, indigos, blues and wines. As this collection did not have any time frame, it is non-seasonal.

Fillip to Kashmiri women

Dr. Priya Somaiya, Executive Director, Usha Social Services, who was present at the launch, is happy that all the hard work and perseverance has paid its dividends. She congratulated the women artisans and their families. “This journey has demonstrated the potential these women have to deliver when equipped with the right training and mentoring. For me, it’s been an extremely enriching experience,” she says, adding that Usha Silai runs a production centre from Srinagar.

What is the significance of this collection?

Rohit Bal, a famed designer, recognised that these women could live up to his expectations. We gave them training which equipped them to create quality and finished work to match expectations of Rohit. Having a Rohit Bal collection showcased at Lakme Fashion Week was significant both for Usha Silai and Rohit. Being a Kashmiri, he wants to help these women. I too hail from the Valley. Despite the problems in Valley, we were able to train them. This initiative would provide these women self-employment.

Collection available at Rohit Bal Studio, D-31, Defence Colony; ₹20,000 upwards

Madhur Tankha

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 1:23:58 AM |

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