When a contemporary fashion aesthetic comes together to collaborate with traditional crafts such as handwoven textiles and intricate hand embroidery, the result is always uniquely magical. As was the case when the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) curated a show, ‘Made in South Asia’, for the World Bank in Delhi. Under a starlit winter sky at the World Bank amphitheatre, the fashion walk showcased over 60 outfits made from textiles created by women self-help groups from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Within India, the textiles came from eight states (Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh).
Fifteen FDCI designers participated to craft outfits that flaunted the range of these textiles in a sharp, chic and creative format. Handloom and handicrafts were married together to design stylish separates for the urban millennial—from biased dresses and skirts for casual brunches, to anarkalis and traditional wear for festivals, as well as shirts and pants for the boardroom, for both men and women. Each of these ensembles incorporated the craft and textiles of a particular South Asia region, and of course, the design aesthetics of the respective labels.
The designers showcasing were Alpana Neeraj, Amrich, Anjana Bhargav, Munkee See Munkee Doo, Nitin Bal Chauhan, Noughtone by Abhishek, Pankaj & Nidhi, Payal Jain, Payal Taandon, Rina Dhaka, Sanskar by Sonam Dubal and Suket Dhir. Reynu Tandon, who combined fine 100-count cotton jamdani with kutchchi and kantha embroidery to make Indian traditional wear, said, “We love playing with colours. These beautiful handwoven fabrics are part of our rich heritage. As a label, we have always celebrated that.”
Suneet Varma jazzed up traditional Sambalpuri ikat with shimmering embroidery to make flowy gowns as well as sexy pant suits with bustiers. This was Odisha’s nabakothi fabric seen in a different avatar altogether. Suket Dhir’s bomber jackets made ikat look fussfree and fun. Pratima Pandey dipped into her minimalistic aesthetics to create breezy separates with the traditional kasavu fabric from Kerala—a beautiful white and gold affair.
Rina Dhaka, known for her smart dresses and edgy suits, said, “Fashion needs to evolve, or else it gets boring. Handloom and handicrafts are giving a fresh lease of life to fashion and design. Something that is sustainable, ethical and here to stay.”This was the fourth in the series of textile-rich events organised across India by the FDCI in the first month of 2019. The previous shows were held at Red Fort, Delhi, Old Currency Building, Kolkata, and Sabarmati Riverside, Ahmedabad. It is a consolidated effort to give a
fillip to the handloom and handicraft sector by increasing their outreach. The fact that these handmade fabrics and crafts can attain the tag of high-fashion was absolutely proven through the showcase.
Breaking barriers of art and aesthetics through clever and thoughtful design, the collection received wide praise from the audience, too. Not just for the clothes, but also for the effort that went into merging the painstaking work of the poor artisans with mainstream fashion.
“The World Bank has helped organise millions of women into self-help groups and provided skill development which is a crucial aspect of growth. The FDCI and our designers are delighted to be supporting this initiative and helping rural women find fresh avenues for sustenance and livelihood,” said FDCI president Sunil Sethi, after the show. While the creations will not be available for sale as this was just a representation, the FDCI wants to take this initiative forward in the upcoming fashion week.