The ramp gets a reality check

The ramp gets a reality check

FASHION FILE

NOD TO TRADITION Ahmedabad-based designer Purvi Doshi’s particular  interest lies in hand-woven fabrics and handcrafted work. Fashionistas of the West may have set the trend — what with the like of Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour and leading designer Vera Wang lending their name to the ‘Fashion & Friends for Japan’ initiative, in support of the earthquake and tsunami victims — but their counterparts here in India are certainly not to be ignored. 

Take, for instance,Mumbai-based designer Archana Kochhar, who works with the NGOs, Beti, a social movement against female foeticide, and Nanhi Kali, dedicated to ensuring primary education for underprivileged girl children. She says, “I have a daughter and I know how precious she is to me. In my own way I am trying to make people aware.”

Archana ensures that all her shows become platforms where people are sensitised on issues pertaining to the girl child, and civil society organisations are allowed to distribute their pamphlets at the venue. She says she donates a part of the sale proceeds to them and even encourages her regular customers to donate money at the venue itself.

Sabah Khan, the Mumbai couturier, may be just  22 years old, but her work has already caught the eye of none other than the Prince of Wales. She came into the limelight when she presented her debut collection, titled ‘No Class’, at last year’s Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai. Her inspiration: the inhabitants of Dharavi. Ever since she was a student of NIFD in Mumbai, she had wanted to do something to highlight the plight of those forced to live in slums. And so she did with her designs. For that collection, the prints on her garments were pictures of children from the slums across Mumbai.

Sabah says, “Fashion has to be fun, but also have a meaning. As long as I can carry a universal message through my fashion shows, I will feel good about being a designer.”
Delhi-based Nida Mahmood has decided to speak up for the fast-disappearing breed of artists, who paint Hindi film posters.

“Poster artists went out of work 10 years ago and my endeavour is to bring their art back into circulation,” she says.  So, along with artist Raul Chandra, Nida has set up a trust called New India Bioscope Company, with five poster artists from Delhi and two from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh.

She has Bollywood posters painted on to her designer wear. She says 75 per cent of what she gets from the sale of her poster-art products goes towards the welfare of these artists.

There are designers like Ahmedabad-based Purvi Doshi, whose particular interest lies in hand-woven fabrics and handcrafted work, like mashru of Gujarat, Luckhnawi of Uttar Pradesh, ikkat of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, woven kota of Madhya Pradesh, khand of Pune (Maharashtra) and leheriya of Rajasthan.

While it’s understandable that a lone designer can’t make much of a difference to the desperate and dismal lives of traditional craftspersons and their dying art forms, it’s a start nonetheless.

Of course, the one woman whose name one cannot ignore while talking of the revival of Indian weaves is Delhi-based designer Ritu Kumar.  Known for ethnic creations, Ritu has been lending a helping hand to several grassroots artists. She has helped revive traditional Indian crafts like block prints, chikankari, zardozi and kalamkari.

At the recent WIFW she presented a Kanjeevaram weaves collection, in order to help contemporarise this weave and bring its weavers to into the spotlight.

Bangalore’s Deepika Govind has been working with different weavers to experiment with fabric and also dyes. She says, “Such specialised weavers need committed support from the design community to survive.”

The environment has emerged as another favourite ‘cause’ on the ramp.  Designers like Mumbai-based Anita Dongre have gone green with their creations. Anita’s signature brand, Grassroot, uses only green textiles and she is associated with ‘Shop For Change’, an NGO working to promote the concept of fair trade in India.

“Shop For Change offers better deals to farmers so that they can earn more money,” she says. This helps her in buying bulk cotton from certified organic cotton vendors at a fair price.

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