Handmade in India

designerwear

Deepika Govind’s pop-art inspired, western silhouetted collections in deeply ethnic weaves are essentially a celebration of the Indian craft. In a conversation with the designer, Tuba Raqshan discovers more about what lies in store for organic couture

These are truly the times of the great Indian kitsch art, inspired by Andy Warhol’s era of colourfully popular insignia but with a burst of vibrancy capturing the chaos that is truly India. And, Bangalore-based designer Deepika Govind uses it only too well in her latest collection, Pop Patola.

These contemporary motifs are re-interpreted in an unexpected avatar, imaginatively ingrained in the grossly unexplored yards of Patola, the extraordinary, double Ikat weave from Patan, Gujarat. And, these versatile creations with flatteringly Western silhouettes are amazingly crafted in ethnic fabric, striking a comfortable balance between the ancient and contemporary elements.

Classic meets avant garde

Deepika feels that such a fusion must exist. “Many youngsters today don’t really know our textiles. So this collection is an essentially contemporary presentation of the traditional Patola weave, inspired by my journey into the interiors of Gujarat. I’m so proud of it,” states Deepika, whose collections are narratives of a singular style. “I wanted to understand how a Gujarati girl, who has been away in another country for many years, feels when she discovers the Patola, in her hometown of Patan. She is modern and views tradition in a different light.

And, it is through the eyes of this girl that Pop Patola has been crafted, in celebration of a happy moment. It is lively, happy, effervescent, with one foot in the mould of tradition, and the other, firmly rooted in the present. I feel that we have to portray our craft in a celebratory manner,” reiterates this designer, who is known for using fashion as a medium to voice her concern for dying Indian traditions, crafts and the environment.

Concern for craft

This concern is not a half-hearted attempt to fit into the spectrum of organic couture. It runs deep, almost to the point of sparking a revolution of sorts — one which restores a sense of respect to Indian fabric, quietly, and with grace. “When you grow in a particular geographic space, you work with what you have. The textile which is grown in our land is quite important. Handmade, especially in India, is prestigious.

There is nothing more beautiful than Indian textile, be it for daily wear or special moments. As someone who has lived an urban life and having visited the villages, I feel every man or woman should have a kurta or sari in an ethnic weave in their wardrobe,” says Deepika, making a strong point.

And this consciousness has spurred many innovations like developing a heavier grammage of the Muga silk (Assamese silk), also known as ‘liquid gold’ because of its natural lustre, which only increases as the fabric ages.

Other fabric firsts include the use of aromatherapy on silks, as well as a denim weave in Eri silk (again, a version of Assamese silk, also known as ahimsa silk because the production doesn’t involve the killing of silkworms) along with CSTRI (Central Silk Technological Research Institute).

This fabric looks and behaves exactly like denim and is a remarkable breakthrough, offering an organic alternative to the classic denim. Also known as the Ikat specialist who revived the Ilkal (a traditional chequered weave), Deepika Govind has played a pivotal role in promoting rural artisans.

Support for artisans

“It is a constant battle for artisans. As designers, we take their craft to the world. We bridge them to the modern world. But obviously, it is based on the demand for their craft. It is really important for local artisans to be involved with designers. How else will R&D happen?” she questions, admitting that the urban–rural divide still lingers. But Deepika is doing her bit for artisans and their livelihood.

“Each year, we help a weaver family.  But, I have to face that demand to go back to them for more. It depends on the interests of people. And, artisans shouldn’t sell themselves cheap. It is better to sell quality at a high price. Art and craft should not be sold at cheap rates,” says Deepika, rather decisively, adding that a co-operative board should be formed to ensure that national fabrics are not sold at a pittance and that the craftspeople are not exploited.

Organic couture, especially in India, still has a long way to go and Deepika is only too aware of the roadblocks. “I truly worry about the crafts in India. There should be more consumer awareness. More designers have to really follow eco-friendly practices.

Just ten of us cannot make a difference. Indian handloom should be widely promoted. There needs to be a mass movement where people question the fibre and reject nylon.
This needs to happen at a much larger level,” concludes Deepika, whose endeavours are surely a step in the right direction, for sustainable couture.

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