Indian weaves hold their own in contemporary fashion

New Delhi, Oct 22 (IANS) The West may be writing the rules in contemporary Indian fashion, but the country's weaves, crafts and fabrics continue to hold their own on the high street.

New Delhi, Oct 22 (IANS) The West may be writing the rules in contemporary Indian fashion, but the country's weaves, crafts and fabrics continue to hold their own on the high street.

Leading Delhi-based apparel and home accessories design house Abraham & Thakore feels Indian textiles and traditional crafts have a unique identity.

'One traditional thread craft that we have tried out is the 'kantha', a variation of the simple running stitch, from Bengal. We have minimalised and modified it for our men's shirts and women's wear,' David Abraham, co-owner of Abraham & Thakore, told IANS.

Abraham & Thakore is working on its autumn-winter collection for the Paris Fashion Week in March and for a show at the Tranoi salon in the French capital.

'We have also tried out variations of the traditional phulkari embroidery from Punjab and mirror work from Gujarat on our clothes,' David said.

The apparel house is using handwoven wool, a blend of fine marino wool from Australia and local Indian sheep wool, woven by villagers in Rajasthan.

At the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week too, a select group of designers showed off their innovations on fabrics intrinsic to India.

Ashish Parikh, Viral Parikh and Vikrant Mehta of Ahmedabad-based fashion house, Virtues Studios, brought the Kota Konnection. Kota is a 250-year-old fabric from Rajasthan.

The ensembles were embellished with the traditional Dabu prints, an ethnic 'mud-resist hand-block printing technique' from Bagru in Rajasthan in metallic shades of antique moss green, purple, burgundy and earth brown.

'Unlike traditional block printing technology where wood blocks are used to print dyes on to fabrics, Dabu uses block to apply resist - usually a paste of mud, gum and sawdust - to the fabric. It is a medieval rural textile print craft,' Ashish Parikh told IANS in the capital.

This Kota Doria weave, according to Ashish, is special. The warp and the weft use a combination of cotton and silk threads in the ratio of 5:1.

'This creates a fine chequered pattern and protects against heat,' the designer said.

Some of the Kota evening wear, mostly kurtas with high necklines and long sleeves, also had patches of cotton 'kalamkari' work, a traditional print from Andhra Pradesh, to enhance the ethnic look.

Last year, Virtues worked extensively with 'mashru', a royal blend of antique cotton and silk - heavy in texture but light in feel.

Woven in pit looms by the tribal women weavers of Kutch and Saurashtra, it is traditionally used in the embroidered blouses worn by local women. 'The year before that we worked with khadi,' Ashish said.

The response, the troika said, has been overwhelming as Studio Virtues is catering to 25 retail outlets across India and even supplying to buyers in the Middle East.

Indian tradition continues to command a niche corner of the market that is loyal, discerning and unaffected by the rough and tumble of the economic meltdown.

Delhi-based designer Preeti S. Kapoor, who has a workshop-cum-studio at Shahpurjat village, chose 'jamewar' and 'zardosi' as her themes for the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week.

'I picked up motifs, feel and inspiration from the traditional jamewar shawls and made them kind of dull and understated on brightly coloured silks, velvets, nets and georgettes.

'Since I used them in combination with zardosi work, most of my outfits resembled old pieces. People like to have a couple of them as exclusive party wear,' Kapoor said.

Preeti's collection, which has an autumn-winter look, was designed with an eye on the coming wedding season.

Perhaps the most enduring influence in contemporary Indian fashion has been the sari - which is once again back on the ramp in a big way though in a new avatar.

Designer duo Ashima and Leena rustled up seven variations of the dress-sari with different drapes in twill silk, georgette and chiffons that show off the legs and the heavily embroidered minimal cholis with antique semi-precious stones.

Most of the slip-on sari drapes are pleated at the back with the drapes tucked into the choli at the bosoms.

'The lure of the sari is evergreen,' says designer Delhi-based Madhu Jain, who is working on saris embellished with 'ikkat' motifs woven by craftsmen in Coimbatore and kalamkari work with prints from Raja Ravi Varma's paintings.

And, according to Azaj Rahim, the CEO of Dubai-based high-end apparel stores Kashmere and Miri, the large body of foreign buyers, including in the Middle East, love the Indian look and feel if it is packaged in Western silhouettes and lines.

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