Ikat goes international: Rina Singh’s latest collection at Lakme Fashion Week is inspired by Little Women’s Jo March

A snapshot from the collection   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

When designer Rina Singh of Eka travels to visit her parents at a village in Kurukshetra, Haryana, she refuses to accept store-bought gifts from relatives. “My mother, grandmother and aunts would sit out in the afternoon, and hand-embroider home linen, rajai covers, and craft lace. They feel ashamed to gift them to me, but I tell them how I would buy them at an antique market if they did not pass them on.” In fact, her latest Autumn-Winter 2020 collection — to be showcased at Lakme Fashion Week’s Sustainability Day On February 13 — features hand-painted and embroidered floral and geometric motifs inspired by these heirloom designs.

Going international

Taking off from her show in Telangana last year, she says the new collection is a second run with the State’s handloom clusters. “I have put an international perspective to the textiles and motifs since we will be selling them in Paris and New York,” says the designer, who launched The Kurta Collection for Japanese retailer Uniqlo’s India launch last year.

Loosely-shaped diaphanous dresses, pleated skirts, boxy jackets and oversized pea coats in contemporary shades feature in the collection inspired by Little Women’s Jo March. “I’m a huge fan of the series and Saoirse Ronan (who plays March in Greta Gerwig’s film adaptation of the novel),” says Singh, talking about how the outfits transform with March’s character: from being tomboyish (voluminous pants with shorter jackets) to feminine (embroidered tear dresses, wool layering). She has given typical shades like bright fuchsia, blue, mustard etc., a miss, as they “usually appeal [only] to the Indian diaspora”. She explains how artisans tend to use these vibrant colours as it is what they see around them. “To cater to the international market, I have worked with a palette of blues, washed-down browns and mints, translating the craft to make abstract and modern silhouettes that don’t reflect traditional ikat patterns,” says Singh, adding that Eka is India’s first design house to have worked with The Wool Lab and Italy’s Rami Riccardo Studio to put together the 2021 forecast book and seasonal sourcing guide.

Yarn it

As for fabrics, Singh has worked with the double and single ikat clusters of Kovalguddam, thigh-reeled Tussar silk from the Mahadevpur cluster, and cotton textiles from Narayanpet. Owing to Telangana’s dry climate, she says silk cotton is the primary fabric they work with. “The artisans use only spun silk which makes the fabric thick. This is not ideal for the international market, as for dresses and skirts, you need fabrics that drape well.” Which is why she felt it was important to change the basic content and yarn. Singh went on to develop silk and cotton blends, changed the yarn construction to make it lighter, and also twisted the yarn before dyeing it.

Rooting for sustainable

In a market scattered with ‘sustainable’ brands, and issues surrounding fast fashion and greenwashing, how does Singh foresee the future? “Sustainability is not just for yesterday and today, it has to be forever. No matter which industry you belong to, you cannot shy away from issues and a hardcore dialogue is necessary. We need to understand there are limited resources and start living frugally. As for the fashion industry, clothes are one of the biggest polluters, so why get people to buy into your created trends that will be out the next season? Instead, we simply need to reinvent our outfits every season,” says Singh. (₹22,000 onwards)

Others on the runway

Work in progress at Shades of India

Work in progress at Shades of India  

50,000 crochet flowers @ Shades of India

The celebrated Noida-based textile design house brings a story of crochet in their spring-inspired collection, Crafted in Crochet. Design director and founder, Mandeep Nagi, explains how it took her around six months to conceptualise and create the line of angrakhas, A-line kurtas, pyjamas, dupattas, and delicate saris. “Crafted in summer fabrics like silk cotton, soft organdy and tissue, it features over 5,000 metres of lace and 50,000 crochet flowers made by women in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur district,” says Nagi, adding that the lace features on the collars, cuffs, necklines and borders. “Lace crochet flowers and pom poms also make for charming additions. In many pieces, the lace has been embellished with zari and glistening mukaish, traditional silver work from Lucknow.”

A creation by Ritu Kumar

A creation by Ritu Kumar  

Neo origami @ Ritu Kumar

This year, the ace designer has partnered with Austrian fiber brand, Lenzing Ecovero to create outfits in viscose fiber that depict tribal and contemporary Indian art forms. Titled Nature’s Origami, the AW’20 collection is a culmination of four stories: Mrinalini Mukherjee’s exhibit at the MET, Neo Origami, Flora & Fauna, and Sundarvan. “The capsule encompasses fabric manipulation and the revival of age-old textile techniques. At the crossroads where modern chevron meets classic florals, you see laces and layering surfaces in Neo Origami. Festive felicity meets pleats and burnout velvet, and the abundance of la dolce vita in the potpourri of Sundarvan,” says Kumar, whose collection features vegetable dyes in shades of deep burgundy, faded ochre, violets and greens, lace work and layering surfaces. Speaking on her collaboration with Lenzing Ecovero, the designer says “it is a good initiative to be able to source a fabric that gives a rich look that their viscose fabrics does; the top end fabrics almost look like silk. I think it is a necessity to have something which doesn’t have to be polyester”.

From Ashdeen’s collection

From Ashdeen’s collection  

Nostalgia @ Ashdeen

Textile designer, author and curator Ashdeen Lilaowala has delved into his own past for inspiration in this new collection, Memories on Cloth. “Looking at my childhood photographs, I had very fond memories of being dressed up in embroidered jhablas. Then there were the fancy dress parties to which my sister would be dressed as a Parsi man and my mum would dress me in a traditional sari,” he chuckles. He has reimagined these outfits for grown ups, as kaftans and blouses, with embellishments like oversized bows. “We’re also combining different techniques and patterns: in some, there are polka dots, others use the crane, and few pieces have all the motifs. This has been done on silks, organza, chiffon... We are creating the look of lace using embroidery,” adds Lilaowala. ₹28,000 for separates and ₹1 lakh for saris.

A House of Three creation

A House of Three creation  

Kolams on jamdani @ House of Three

Continuing their format of integrating two states into each collection, the Bengaluru-based label picked Tamil Nadu and Bengal for this showcase — not least because designers Anu Shyamsundar and Sounak Sen are from these states. “The Kumarikandam collection is inspired by the ancient city that was discovered under the Indian Ocean, and is considered the birthplace of human civilisation. This is where Tamil culture came from,” explains Sen. They worked with master weaver Rajib Debnath to create muslin jamdani and Sathya and Santhanam from Kanchipuram and Kumbakonam respectively for Kanjivaram silk. “You’ll see typically jamdani patterns on Kanjivaram and kolam motifs on the muslins,” says Sen. ₹6,000 to ₹25,000 for pret.

With inputs from Susanna Myrtle Lazarus

Lakme Fashion Week’s Sustainability Day is on February 13.

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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 10:31:34 AM |

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