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India In My Bag: Reinventing Traditional Weaves

Reinventing Indian Textiles

Colour and stories from three young designers developing collections for IndiaInMyBag

Textile Weaves

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of sifting through the sarees in my mother and grandmother’s cupboards. There was a unique sense of thrill in letting the names of those weaves and stitches slip off our tongues, the dhakai and the jamdani, the pochampalli and the kanjeevaram, the gorgeous silks and chiffons laden with chikankari and kantha and zardozi, each acted as a veritable 6-yard curtain to a different part of the world.

As an adult, even if my sarees stay ensconced in tissues and naphthalenes, I have slowly and steadily been developing a collection of scarves and throws in all of the beautiful weaves of my childhood, and was thrilled to discover IndiaInMyBag, a website that is making an attempt to bring some of these ancient traditions back to the mainstream.

I love Rohit and Kamna’s efforts to put together a team of artists and designers who reinvent an existing weave for modern wear, and enjoy reading the stories they put together of these art forms. It was with great pleasure that we spoke to three of the young designers developing collections for this new company. Read on to find out more about their work, and also about some of our favourite designs from their collections!

Bringing Assamese Weaves to the Mainstream

Bandita MushaharyBandita Mushahary designs some of the most gorgeous Assamese dupattas we’ve seen. These lovely pieces are both timeless and current in the ways that only the best of fashion can be.

Bandita is an alumnus of Pearl Academy of Fashion, Jaipur, who emerged from her course in love with the art of Block Printing. Her passion led to a two year stint in Kilol (one of our favourite casual wear brands as well) but she was always driven by a desire  to bring forth the amazing weaving traditions of her home state Assam. Soon, she left her job, and returned home to start her own label Bibaar, that focused on the weaves from this state.

Bandita loves playing with different colour combinations and unexpected juxtapositions of weaves and embroideries, and its this thrill of discovering new and interesting palettes that keeps her going.

As she tells us, weaving is a way of life in Assam, with every village house having its own loom.  Each community has its own traditions and customs. The whites, golden-beiges and off whites that we associate with Assamese weaves may be the preferred colour palette of one community, but the Mishing work with red and black, and the Bodos express their colourful personalities in vibrant yellows, greens and reds. Each community also has its share of distinct designs and motifs that act as a unifying narrative.

This means that there is so much to discover (and re-discover) and introduce to mainstream fashion, and it is this thrill of discovery that keep Bandita excited about fashion.She can’t wait to appropriate all of  these weaves and motifs in different forms of clothing, ranging from kurtas to dupattas and sarees.

Bandita’s biggest inspiration remain the artists and craftspersons she works with. The more time she spends with them, watching the interplay of colours and motifs on their looms, the more ideas she gets for her next collections.

She says that IndiaInMyBag has helped her focus on her creativity and design,  while she leaves the logistics of sales and marketing to its team. It has also helped her by giving her access to a national and international market that may not have been as easily accessible to her alone.

We asked her if there was a particular celebrity she’d like to see in her designs one day, and she tells us that for her, the real thrill is in seeing them on a modern Indian woman, someone who may not have had exposure to these weaves earlier, but is always willing to experiment and try out new things!

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We share Bandita’s passion for unusual colour combinations, and this off-white dupatta with lime greens, mustards, and even a little bit of pink may just be our favourite from her collection.

Off White and Lime Green Paat Dupatta

Summer’s Crisp Elegance

Priyanka MathurPriyanka Mathur’s delicate Chanderis and Kotas are perfect for this uncommonly hot summer and excellent for mixing and matching into your  formal work wear.

She has always been attracted to colour and fashion. After studying fashion and colour technology from NIFT, she worked with some of the smartest minds of the retail industry and also with gras root artisans, learning both the business and the art behind Indian textiles.

Priyanka is especially attracted to block printing. As she tells us- block printing is a dying art. The new generation of artisans is moving to simpler and more productive art forms, and she is committed to preserving this tradition in any way she can- especially because she believes that nothing can compare to an original hand blocked print!

She especially loves working on chanderi and silk fabrics, creating wearable works of arts targeted towards modern Indian women.

Her  true inspiration comes from working with natural fibres, rural artisans, the weavers and the vendors that she has interacted with over the last thirteen years.  She also finds inspiration in nature and its myriad textures and colours. Her collaboration with IndiaInMyBag has helped her reach a global audience, and a chance to be featured on the same platform as other young promising designers.

Some designers/ brands whose work she admires include Rajesh Pratap, Sabyasachi Mukherji, Mandeep Negi (of Shades of India fame), Goodearth, Bodhi (with Pradeep and Mala Sinha) and Tejal.

In the future, she would love to incorporate some more traditional arts in her designs- including Chikankari, Zardozi and Ari embroideries and the Ikat weave .

The two celebrities she would love to see in her creations some day are Feroze Gujral and Shabana Azmi, because they share a similar aesthetic as her- and emphasis on a classic and timeless beauty.

MBRB Recommends: 

Straight to the shopping cart goes this chanderi kurta and dupatta for its delicate white, and for transporting us to cooler climes this hot July afternoon.

Chanderi Dupatta

Between Whimsy and Artistry

Farida GuptaFarida Gupta’s collection for IndiaInMyBag includes interestingly structured semi formal shirts,and bold palazzo pants with a touch of whimsy. Their simple wearability is elevated by the delicate embroidery that makes each piece delightfully distinct.

She started Folkore, New Delhi as a venture that is committed to bring together a varied range of traditional crafts and techniques of dyeing, weaving, printing and hand embroidery.  Her aim is to keep these ebbing crafts alive by designing contemporary-wear garments. She uses  natural materials and indigenous skills with a good dose of modern aesthetics. Fabric is sourced from core artisans centers of the country, for e.g. traditional block prints from Bagru, Indigo and Ajrak prints from Kutch and various parts of Rajasthan, Bagh from Madhya Pradesh, weaves from Bijnor and other centers in Southern India and contemporary block prints from Sanganer.

Farida employs  a lot of hand embroidery in her  work and this stemmed from her aim to promote women artisans and to provide a means of livelihood to them.  Today her label provides a source of income  to over 200 women who benefit from her market-led design inputs, while she derives inspiration from their work and design.

She is a fan of all Indian weaves, and her design aesthetic is rooted in India and inspired by the traditional motifs that were symbolic to early civilisations and cultures.

IndiaInMyBag takes this effort one step further by introducing her work to an even wider global client base. She has worked with them extensively to design her latest collection- and in her own words- “IndiaInMyBag also appreciates and motivates designers like me to be able to celebrate the folklore of India in modern day lives.”

Farida can’t wait to experiment with an entire gamut of traditional Indian art forms and would love to work with Shibori and Chikankari in the future.

For her, the emphasis has always been in celebrating womanhood, and she can’t think of a single celebrity she’d like to see in her designs. Her dream remains to foster an appreciation of Indian textiles and traditions that can be worn by every one.

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These yellow palazzo pants put together two of our favourite things- comfort and the sunshine colour. The tiny scrunchie-inspired drawstrings add just the right touch to make them stand out.

Yellow Palazzo

Featured Image Credit: Ravages via Compfight cc

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