From the hills to the ramp

From the hills to the ramp
It was like going back to my roots,” says Delhi-based designer Amit Sachdeva, recalling his visit to the North-Eastern states of India, where his love for handlooms, cotton, eri, gicha silks and other beautiful natural yarns from that region got rekindled a couple of years ago.

For more than a decade, Amit was identified for his stunning wedding trousseau that included embroidered saris, lehengas and gowns in chiffons, georgettes, silks and more. But recently, Amit presented an all-natural fabric collection titled ‘Serendipity’ under his brand ‘Has’ (Handlooms by Amit Sachdeva), which offers Western silhouettes, bomber jackets over shorts, short dresses, jumpsuits and more.

Weaves that impress

‘Has’ is the outcome of the weeks that he spent with the weaver communities of Assam, especially from villages like Bijoynagar and Boko. Amit reveals that the time spent in the North-Eastern states made him nostalgic and also showed him the real beauty of the
local textiles.

For his degree in 2001 from the Pearl Academy of Fashion Technology in Delhi, Amit had done a research project on the weavers in Nagaland and Kohima. Even then, he was highly impressed with their lives, the dedication with which they wove the yarns, and also the beauty of the yarn which is so different from the yarns found in the other parts of the country.

“That difference had always intrigued me. But after graduation, it was like a struggle for existence for me. I never wanted to take any help from anyone. So, I had to start the profession by catering to the popular demand of designing wedding trousseau,’’ states the young designer.

Amit lost his father at a young age and was brought up by his mother and his paternal family. Like most parents in India who give utmost importance to academics, even his mother wanted him to earn a good degree first. So, even though he was interested in creative arts, especially designing textiles, he decided to get a degree in Commerce. Once that was achieved, he enrolled into a textile designing course with Pearl.

There was never any direct influence of fashion or textiles on him from his family of business people, but he perhaps had unwittingly inherited the penchant for embroidery from his grandparents who hailed from Lahore and had migrated to Delhi. So in all his designs, one thing that stands out and can be said to be his trademark is a piece of embroidery. Even in his latest collection of cotton, he makes it a point to place a subtle embroidery motif at some place on the garment.  

“I won’t say I am influenced by the embroidery from Lahore. There are so many intricate and beautiful styles of hand embroidery in our own country. Embroidery brings alive a garment. And over the course of time, I would like to explore all varieties of embroidery, with as many karigars as possible, through my clothes,” explains Amit.

Amit had fun working on the wedding garments, but he had an entirely different experience interacting with the weavers from the North-East. However, he encountered many hurdles during this process. First was the language as some weavers spoke only the local dialect. For this, he took the help of his friend and the local NGOs of weaver clusters with whom he worked.

The second hurdle was the size of the looms. “They use small-sized looms as most of their clothes are of smaller dimensions. We had to change that. And the third hurdle was the colour of the yarn. Clothes from the North-East are very colourful and look beautiful on them, but a majority of Indians prefer pastel shades,” Amit shares.  

So, the yarn was dyed in fusion-ish hues like soft, milky shades of powder pink, light blue, peach, etc. The dyes are free from a strong chromatic content. Besides cotton, Amit preferred to design using only sustainable yarns like mulberry silk, handspun muga, eri and their blends.

The signature hint of bling in his clothes was obtained by using lurex yarns with eri and muga silk. “That slight touch of lurex gives the clothes a festive look, which is so subtle that one can wear these clothes even for non-formal events,” explains the designer.

Changing with times

Next, he had to request them to weave differently shaped motifs on the garment as they mostly used geometric motifs. “I wanted curvy motifs and it took subtle coercing to change their style. I found it very intriguing that even though they were traditional weavers who had been following the same patterns for generations, they were ready to learn new things and adapt to changing times. They have realised that to survive and to come into mainstream fashion, they have to contemporise and innovate,” explains Amit.

In fact, he feels that every designer should try to bring grassroot weavers and karigars into mainstream fashion to help them survive, and to help preserve our traditional weaving techniques and textiles. Currently, some designers are already doing it.  But Amit opines that everyone should join hands to save our heritage.

“Only showcasing Indian weaves in typical Indian garments may not be that successful. If we can incorporate our textiles in Western silhouettes without compromising on their originality, it will benefit our weavers and open a new market for them,’’ feels Amit.

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