Sanjukta and her gamcchas

Happy in her own skin, this young maverick designer Sanjukta and her young eponymous brand- Sanjukta inspires me to look no further!

What are your design qualifications and unforgettable experiences through it?

I belong to a prehistoric textile batch of Pearl Academy. The institute was then in Okhla (New Delhi), a tiny building surrounded by all kinds of industries. The textile department was on the top floor where the heads of two departments sat in a tiny room across the weaving studio. Most of my memories are with my batchmate with whom I always teamed up for projects. We landed up teaming only with each other as we inadvertently complemented each other and successfully met our deadlines. My partner was good at sourcing material and had easy access to market places while I did well in colouring, cutting and pasting things, by following the instructions to the tee. We divided work, while staying up the nights! I think it was a brilliant practice for my applications and a great introduction to team/time management.

At the institute, we did an exercise during our basic design course of creating audio visual and tactile effects with a theme.  One group was amazing! As they asked everyone to close their eyes while narrating a spooky story. Parts of the story had leaves rustling effectively by brushing small dry leaves on a twig. With closed eyes the visual effects heightened even with such simple techniques. It never struck me that creating audio visual effects for a theme could be so simple.

What are your childhood design influences?

Umm…being the way I was I suppose being an obedient rebel helped in breaking rules if they were useless or could be bent for a greater cause. I tried to change things that one was too comfortable with, by working around them in my own way. As a child I had imaginary friends. I still imagine forms and patterns on badly painted walls, tree barks, streets, clouds sometimes in food. One could say I am always high on my childhood!!!

Your reasons for using the Gamccha for making garments?

No particular reason other than that they were traditional, cotton, found in a myriad of colours and were cheap.

I used to make clothes for myself, sometimes. So when I thought of making clothes for a business it was like throwing a stone in the dark. I was at the end of a 12 year industrial career and was spending off the last bit of the grant from the ministry of textiles. Not being a garment person I wasn’t inclined towards creating patterns. So the first 10 garments came from  the Gamcchas I had collected while travelling. Finding a person who understood what I wanted and accepted the mad idea of experimenting with Gammchas (which still have a stigma of being just a cheap towel attached) was difficult!

But a very old man with a heart condition, in an obscure tailoring shop in one corner of the city, obliged me. There were trials and re-trials to be on the same page and thus began our story!

Working with Gamcchas has not been easy, since its not woven in yardage. A finished one has 4 borders around it. The width/ size, construction of each is different, depending on where they come from. People think its best for me to set up a loom so that the construction of the fabric could be woven to a desired size. But that way it will be just another piece of cloth without an identity(related to its geographical location).

And they are also usually coarse?

Not all Gamcchas are equally coarse. There are some luxurious ones as well which are made of muga/eri silk. But most are coarser than other fabrics. Some use less counts with plain weaves, some give the coarser yarns a higher twist while weaving (depending on their local resources).

Gamccha/ ga-mosa is actually used for wiping the body. You need something that absorbs moisture easily and dries off fast. It is basically a beautiful functional indigenous handmade fabric.

And then came the terry towels!

I use the Gamccha after a wash to remove the initial starch and shrink as much as possible.  One can wash it more often to make it softer as it carries so much starch. However for my clothing line I let the user understand the behaviour of this fabric, which was originally built for moisture absorption.

Where can one find them?

Gamcchas are traditional to most states in India and Bangladesh. Just their look, feel and size varies. Based in Bengal I have an easy access to them from Bangladesh, Assam, Bihar, Orissa and Jharkhand. I tried sourcing it from the southern states of India, but being far away and without the right contacts only got my hands on mill made stuff. Though this year I am looking forward to meeting weavers directly associated with the Crafts Council for a steady supply.

What have been your Gamccha experiments till date?

Initially started with garments, then also tried jewellery and other accessories but lately its a sari!

What is in store for your brand, in the near future?

I have started working on kidswear. Personally would like to make a lot of fun stuff as suggested by someone I admire. So looking forward to experimenting with bikinis, ijar/ izar pants, corsets and other accessories.

How do you unwind?

I try to stick to the schedule of running thrice a week, swimming thrice a week and never missing my Aikido class, which is also thrice a week. Like to take up wall painting projects, whenever possible. I used to go to Kutch every year and teach at Kala Raksha. Infact right now I am co-developing a design project with some graduates, there. And am giving Japanese language also, a shot.

Last but not the least ‘adda’ time- endless tea sessions with friends, is extremely precious to me.

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