Chamba girl is the latest fashion find

Sapna with Manu Sharma, Nitin Bal Chauhan and Deepak Verma.

Sapna with Manu Sharma, Nitin Bal Chauhan and Deepak Verma.  

It happens to be her first trip to a city without mountains. In fact, her first trip to anywhere. And yet, when this girl in pink, with a packet of `kurkuras' tightly clutched in her hands, slips behind her friend to whisper a secret into his ear, you know she feels completely at home.

All of seven, Sapna is the latest find of the National Institute of Fashion Technology. Or rather, the inspiration behind the latest collection of designer Nitin Bal Chauhan that will be on display at the fashion show "Lust for life" in Delhi this coming Wednesday as part of NIFT's annual festival `Spectrum'.

But if you thought creativity was the focus of this fashion show, think again. Screened before the fashion show will be a 15-minute film "Sapna" that tracks the life of the little Chamba girl and her first journey beyond the hills. Produced by the NGO Sewa Himalayas, the film has been jointly directed by Deepak Verma and Nitin and hopes to raise enough funds to ensure good schooling for Sapna.

His decision to work in his native town Chamba after graduating from NIFT may have been deliberate, but meeting Sapna was clearly not. "She just walked into our workshop one day and I happened to be at the reception.

I found her full of energy and exuberance. In fact, she makes friends with everyone and is very intelligent. She can even rattle off tables of 18. All we want is to put her in a nice school to ensure she gets good education." points out Nitin.

The collection will have 30-35 ensembles and will showcase the "richness" of Chamba, Lahaul, Spitti, Kinnaur and Kullu in hand woven and hand spun fabrics crafted by Sewa Himalayas' trained artisans.His collection, reveals Nitin, is based on the concept of the haves and have nots. "The concept really teases me.

Chamba girl is the latest fashion find

Life presents us with various options and often we are confused about which one to choose," says Nitin.

A Chamba-based society that is working towards promoting, developing, uplifting and modernising the old and forgotten handicrafts of the area, Sewa Himalayas is hoping to help revive the dying arts of this area.

"There is a lot of disguised unemployment in the area. With most people now turning to materials bought from the city, these traditional wears, despite their brilliance, are losing the market. If well done, these designs can be exported, specially to countries like Russia where they have a huge demand," believes Nitin.

While checks, stripes, flowers and inches of tapes will be the signature of his collection, the designer has specially brought in traditional artists from Chamba to provide his fashion show with the background of a live music score.

"Keeping with the collection's theme, I have used very bright and lively colours. While the cuts have been kept clean, a lot of embroidery has also been used. The collection is highly priced, but then the idea is to promote the art forms and provide this little girl with a good future," he says.

Another highlight of the fashion show will be Sapna's first stint on the ramp. The Chamba girl will be sashaying down the ramp in Nitin's designer wear.

"I have seen a twinkle of hope in her eyes. I can't adopt this girl because I am a single man, but at least I hope to improve my work," he says.

By Lakshmi Balakrishnan

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