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Indian jungles re-fashioned with Bengali Sholapith craft

In high summer, Edward Abbey‘s excerpt from Postcards from Ed: Dispatches and Salvos from an American Iconoclast “The weather here is windy, balmy, sometimes wet. Desert springtime, with flowers popping up all over the place, trees leafing out, streams gushing down from the mountains. Great time of year for hiking, camping, exploring, sleeping under the new moon and the old stars ” reminded the fashion aficionado in me of a subtle play with opaque and translucent fabrics. Herein, Sahil Kochhar‘s Chanderi and Organza in pristine ivory, champagne rose and cashmere blue have scalloped hems. Ethereally ornamented with silk floss embroidery they are neatly finished with a serrated edging; making way for an apparition to come alive.

His previous two seasons easily managed to transport one from the Bugyals of Uttarakhand to the exotic Jungles of India with a signature technique Shola pith craft from West Bengal  – 3D applique work.

Graduated from National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi in 2006 he won the Most Creative Collection Award and the Best Academic Performance for the program, too. Thereafter at Rohit Bal‘s he assisted in designing for about 6 years. Eventually in 2013  he launched his own namesake label. Two years later, in 2015, was encouraged on receiving the Grazia Young Fashion AwardElle Graduate Award and nominated by Stardust Awards for the Best Costume Design category. This winning spree continued when the talent moved a notch higher in 2016, nominated from India for the regional round of the International Woolmark Prize 2016.

Acknowledged by the Indian fashion industry beginning this year, he was announced the winner of the AZA Fashion’s Next 2018 Business Program at the Amazon Fashion Week. It offers him the much needed mentorship in retail business for a year with immense exposure at a nascent stage of his career. Rewinding his last six years we’ve seen different appliques, fabrics, designs and thread embroideries being re-fashioned. So, I thought it best to ask Sahil few pertinent questions.

 

Anti-fashion menswear for X, Y, Zee generations

Itō, Ito, Itou, Itoh or Itoo (written: 伊藤) might be the sixth most common Japanese surname but now is the name of a Delhi based menswear label owned by Amit Babbar, which also means a yarn or thread in their lingo. Its aesthetics are an aftermath of his luxurious globetrotting trips during childhood which left an indelible mark in the cerebral cortex.

Listening to him a quote by Muhammad Ali “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life” kept ringing in my ears. As a lad he started his design journey with a Fashion Design course from Wigan & Leigh  New Delhi. Thereafter became an entrepreneur at 21 itself. Now for nearly a decade and a half  he has been exporting to the likes of Maison de soil, Mando and United Arrows in the Japanese archipelago. 

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Escaping this summer with feminine digital prints and flirty hand-embroidery

Noticing closely I realized  how Sneha Arora a 33 yrs old Kolkata based designer was treading carefully on the middle path chosen between modernism and post-modernism. She derived pleasure from technological positivity and traditional expertise. Her fetish for both hand and powerloom textiles were cleverly juxtaposed with digital printing and hand-embroidery to avoid being too predictive. 

So we connected, as I wanted to know more about her clothing line and other things that mattered-

Her childhood memories: Was a studious kid. Had planned to sit for medical entrance, instead randomly took an entrance exam for NIFT and got through their Fashion Design program, Kolkata.

Her creative influences/memories: Through childhood she excitedly made cards on special occasions for both friends and family. Her elder sister is an interior designer.

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“Visual imagery is what I carried forward from Madura where I had designed tee shirts. Bougainvillea and Rhododendron are my favourite flowers. And the use of khadi is for its textured feel further aggrandized with thread and French Knot embroidery.”

– Sneha Arora

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Did you know of Akaaro’s Kingi?

 

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Differentiating between a powerloom or a handloom weave from afar, Gaurav Jai Gupta – the designer behind Akaaro, is all set to take advantage of his archival ground-breaking samples for creating conscious fashion trends. At an impressionable age when most are interested in music and photography,  he went along with his friends to NIFT, New Delhi and enrolled himself without giving it a second thought. That Fashion Design and Information Technology foundation course offered a combination of graphics, design and fashion. But unlike others, his final year submission resulted in engineered textile swatches.

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Regenerated tweed, both light and warm

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There are reasons for me to pick up the threads with this post – main ones being recycled fibres and the fashion industry being the second largest polluter in the world. It makes me happy to speak about PASHMA – an Indian label through its cashmere range is taking sustainability to another level. I had the opportunity to meet up with its CEO – Mr. Ravindra Kumar at their Gurugram unit where he spoke about their decision of undoing previous collections’ and spinning the Cashmere. “We decided to ‘Regenerate’ our fabric leftovers collected over one decades or more. It has a coarser count and we weave these yarns into HerringboneTwill, Diamond Weave etc., which sell well. Magically, this specific yarn when knitted with different knit structures, needle craft and printed with contemporary prints look like a part of the knit itself ” he explained.

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Jamdani – a sublime weave does justice to slow fashion

She remembers sketching gowns from class 7th onwards after secretly gaping at the international fashion magazines for hours on end. Had fancied a German – Karl Largarfeld ever since, for successfully creating three distinct labels simultaneously – French fashion house Chanel, an Italian one Fendi, along with his own fashion label.

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Resplendent Benarasi weaves from history and beyond

Jhini jhini bini chadariya.

kah ke tana, kah ke bharni, kaun taar se bini chadariya

ingla pingla taana bharni, sushumna tar se bini chadariya.

ashta kamal dal charkha doley, panch tatva, gun tini chadariya

saiin ko siyat mas dus lagey, thonk-thonk ke bini chadariya.

so chaadar sur nar muni odhi, odhi ke maili kini chadariya

das Kabir jatan kari odhi, jyon ki tyon dhar deeni chadariya.

The Lord Supreme has woven a very fine and delicate tapestry, free of impurities of any kind!

What refined and subtle yarn, what complex interlacing,

He has used to weave it!

Using veins and breath he threads twenty four hours on end,

His spinning wheel turns,

Weaving the tapestry from all five essential elements.

Ten months it takes the Lord to weave his tapestry,

Using the greatest of craftsmanship, care and skill.

That exquisite tapestry is worn by the celestials, by Saints, and by human beings alike.

But they all invariably have defiled it !

Your humble devotee Kabir has worn it scrupulously and meticulously,

And is returning it to you, O’Lord, unblemished and pure !

(cited Blind to Bounds)

Kaaynat - Gold the art of Zari by Swati and Sunaina

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The UnBenaras weaver

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My fascination grew when I read online about Hemang Agrawal’s textile journey after seeing his dazzling collection at Vayu, an upmarket concept store. Particularly how as a young lad from Baneras after studying at NIFT, Mumbai, thought it best to give up his scholarship for Masters in Fashion at Nottingham Trent University to go back home and make something of his textile roots(father had a saree business). Apparently this life altering decision was taken after listening to Padma Shri Rahul Jain‘s talk on Safavid, Persian and Mughal drawloom patterned textiles; wherein he explained in depth the sophistication and innovation of Benarasi textiles of the past several centuries. Later this foremost textile historian and revivalist of India became Hemangs guide and guru.

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Kabir inspires contemporary fashion

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Contemporary apparel is known to be accessible in price and relevant to present day fashion. It is modern compared to the higher end luxury market and a tad younger, more often than not.

For a fashion student contemporary begins from the loom which makes a more powerful statement than the machine, when woven with hand. Designer Padmaja Krishnan like Kabir, equates it to meditation; which as per the weaver’s poetry is known to be an expression of an ingenious human mind. Being a slow fashion addict, her eponymous label too hopes to restore the magic in handloom, through ‘The Loom Mind’ collection, this year.

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