Handcrafted clothes are a thing of the past. That’s what many of us might believe. But the truth is that some of our leading fashion designers are turning to traditional forms to give a time-tested edge to their clothes. In recent fashion shows in Delhi, for instance, a number of designers showcased clothes inspired and co-created by artisans excelling in handicrafts.
Showcasing the handcrafted techniques in her collection, called “Not So Serious”, Pallavi Mohan called it an amalgamation of different elements. Pallavi says, “Handcrafted techniques are traditional ways of producing beautiful artisanal products in a skillful way using hands. While innovations in fabric technology have been pushing fashion forward for several years, now designers are taking cues from ancestral craft techniques like hand weaving, embroidery, block printing, ancient leather making processes. It is completely “preservation through innovation” by incorporating the age-old handcrafted techniques into modern designs.”
Different forms of textiles have been used by designers from time to time. The techniques used by these designers are Kalamkari, Chikankari, Zardozi, Phulkari, and so forth which needs expertise and hard labour.
Designer Karan Arora who recently launched an intricate handloom silk collection, says “Our collections are primarily based on craft. We are making a constant endeavour to reinvent regional craftsmanship that goes with today's uptight essentials which is a pre requisite, to get the idea of craft working in today’s timer. Right now we are working on Kantha, kalamkari, phulkari and qashidaqari designs. Technology has made the world a global village hence the demand of handloom textile has gone up by multiple levels which makes restoration a very bright opportunity.”
“Artisans are definitely going to benefit if we all become aware of handloom products. It will generate livelihood for them be it a fabric weaver or a towel weaver. We as customers must create a demand and a market for it by pledging to use only handloom.”
Making handcrafted clothes are also not easy affair. “Handmade fashion often starts with textiles that are handcrafted using traditional weaving techniques. Not only are there hundreds of traditional weaving and forthcoming techniques for creating handmade textiles, many modern designers are combining hand weaving techniques and fibres to create even more unique, sustainable threads for eco fashion. The technique involves the study of the nature of work and how the particular craft has evolved over a period of time to develop the design that fits well in the framework of that craft,” adds Arora.
Handcrafted techniques are making its way in the fashion industry. There are many designers who are using the indigenous way of designing their collection. Handlooms and many contemporary designs are inspired by these techniques. “The dynamics of trade are changing. The whole world seems to be going back to the basics, so are we, in India. We realized how we had a niche market of hand weaving right in-house with an army of weavers who were neglected as we were rushing towards machine made products,” says Rinku Sobti. She works on handlooms of Varanasi.
Also Sanya Dhir, Creative Director, Diva'ni, says, “No machine made product can substitute the intricacy and the stitch of hand-craftsmanship. Each product is unique in its texture, colour and embroideries which convey that creativity of craftsmanship has no boundaries. From the intricate zardozi stitches of the ethnic Indian wear embroidery to the sequins and glass bead surfacing of the international red carpet Haute Couture - it is pure form of artistry by the craftsman, whose needles and spindles can never be replaced by any machine.”
In the wake of the recent launch of these latest designs and different textiles, what needs to be paid heed to is that the artisans and craftsmen have really benefited and not only have their sources of income increased but also their works receiving admiration and appreciation by the fashion fraternity.
“Although Indian craftsmanship is unique, intricate and incomparable, but people looking for low value substitutes do not respect the dignity of this art and its craftsman. With growing awareness, it stands and upholds the hand-craftsmanship and its artisans by endorsing embroideries and surfacing done by them. Thus, helping them to uplift their lifestyles and not quitting their generations’ old heritage of this unique art,” adds Dhir.
“Artisans are definitely going to benefit if we all become aware of handloom products. It will generate livelihood for them be it a fabric weaver or a towel weaver. We as customers must create a demand and a market for it by pledging to use only handloom,” says Sobti.
But for many, if not promoted well, it could be one of the dying arts in India. Paras Bairoliya of Geisha designs, says, “With the advent of malls, online stores and multi brand outlets the client today has opted a lot for ready-to-wear and is spoilt for choice and hence there has been a price war and efforts of each atelier is to offer value for money or move towards more technology fabrics or techniques for faster and cheaper turn out while being consistent in quality hence the use of hand craft has reduced drastically. Due to reduction in demand and relatively poor pay a lot of looms are lying vacant and embroiderers (craftsmen) are not handing down the skills to the next generation as it’s no longer very profitable business and hence not aspiring enough.”
“Indian designers still by and large try using hand craft as it’s a novelty and the onus is on all of us to keep creating handicraft items to keep the products attractive to the end consumer so that the demand is generated and hence better livelihood for the sector. This will ensure continuity of the trade which is unique to our culture and tradition,” he adds.
For textile artists and designers, it should be a balancing act to not just only promote growing technologies for inventing new designs but also promoting long-lasting handcrafts tradition of the country.