If you are wearing a Rema Kumar creation, it is possible that you are a walking museum of sorts because the layers of the fabric weaved into it will be a confluence of culture and art from the remotest corners of our country: the first layer could be a zardozi laid over a layer of Tussar from Chhattisgarh, with a rendition of kalamkari, and topped with ajrak from Gujarat.
Rema made an uncommon career choice 20 years back, and it has made her exactly that — uncommon, unique and path-breaking. A promising academician who was headed to do medicine, turned towards a PG in Textiles and Clothing, and has today carved a niche for herself in fashion design, albeit with a cause.
Rema’s forte is weaving fabrics and textile, and years ago, she discovered the treasures of our country and its rich history of weaving. “It seemed only natural to me to involve the weavers and do something contemporary that will appeal to our people today.”
From the field
Rema feels that in future, handloom will be highly premium considering the fact the craft of weaving is dying rapidly, especially in the source villages. Rema has, over the last two decades, searched for weavers in the deepest corners of our country and has been successful in bringing out some of the most credible and authentic weaving styles to her brand.
Rema innovates every single piece she works on while retaining the native flavour.
She has worked with weaving techniques like kalamkari, kantha, patti ka kaam, mukaish, chikan, cutwork, bandini, batik, ajrak, handblock prints, ariwork, soof embroidery, zardozi, mirrorwork, Kashmiri needlework, Pipli appliqué, and more. One of her favourite themes is the combination of geometric designs and vegetable dyes, and she has used it extensively in her saree creations.
What is inspiring is the humungous effort Rema has put in bringing the native essence in her unique designs from Balaramapuram, Kanchipuram, Mangalagiri, Mandapeta, Pedana, Warangal, Ponduru, to Champa, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Kota etc.
In the process of creating designs, she has also learnt some valuable life lessons from the natives. In Assam, she was enamoured by the volume of work the women do, multi-tasking — managing household chores, agriculture and weaving.
Two years ago, Rema worked on a project in Gunehar (near Dharamshala) that involved working entirely with the locals there. She recalls that it was a life-changing experience to be with them. The project involved identifying a local shop to display her works and they found an abandoned tea shop. Like in a movie, they revived the tea shop, infused it with local art, and made it successful because it attracted a lot of visitors and locals once the shop was put up. “They are innocent and loving, and collaborated so well with us for the entire project. It was almost a dream come true for 10 of the local girls who performed at a fashion show for us there!” she exclaims.
Impact of social media
Rema credits a lot of the success of her brand and creations to Facebook. She has used the channel effectively to showcase her creations and reach out to audiences on the value of weaving and handlooms. People have been able to connect with her brand, understand the importance of dyeing traditions, and above all, experience the heritage, diversity and cultural spirit of our nation. “Social media is a platform that enables the creation of new relationships, conversations, and opens up a huge door of possibilities,” she says.
Rema is not just creating fashion. She is a revivalist; she is engendering a new experience for each of her customers; she is creating a confluence of a rare kind that gives hope to our dying traditions.
Way to go, Rema!