When handmade, handspun, and hand-woven are sewn to create exuberant and different, yet universally enticing silhouettes, we move toward reinventing the loom for Indian indigenous textiles, craft, and artisans, thus beguiling international markets and investors.

Almost a quarter of a decade as a designer, educator, and choreographer, and one thing has never changed for me – the fabric is the star! One needs to first understand that designers work on a two-fold premise. One is where you can create a beautiful illustration or a garment on paper and then try and replicate it with the best possible fabric, which will do justice to what you have created on paper as an outfit. The other premise is when you get a lump of fabric in front of you, you see something that is so completely inspiring in this textile, and then you create a look based on that. Now that is truly putting our fabrics first and leaving a mark on the international design map.

CUTTING OUR CLOTH

I exude excitement when it comes to Indian artisans, Indian fabrics, and Indian craft. One can’t deny the fact that so much is handmade and that there are only few countries that can do this. It is mainly Asian countries that have come to the fore when they display their craft in the most beautiful and exotic manner. For India to take that much-needed step forward, the ideal is to essentially take khadi or handloom textiles out of the norm and turn that into a more international look.

A step in the right direction was taken by the Khadi Board and the Rajasthan government, in association with Prasad Bidapa Associates through the Rajasthan Heritage Week in December 2015, which promoted the concept of 'Handmade in Rajasthan', thereby generating employment and exposure for the state's weavers. So, when I was approached by the curator, Mr Prasad Bidapa, to be a part of this legacy, I agreed without hesitation.

SILHOUETTING A DREAM

My collection at Rajasthan Heritage Week was my unmitigated tribute to the state of Rajasthan itself. I created ‘Vedic Mode Design’ to explore the relationship of Indian fabrics with Indian artisans, and ensure that the clothes I create become universal. The warm colour palette paid justice to arid deserts and the celebratory colours of its people, including the fabulous Kalbelia dancers (who are always adorned in black). The development of environmental-friendly vegetable dyes and block printed techniques on Indian textiles, whether it be khadi or handloom, colours like terracotta, vermillion, olives, and earth shades that reflect what India is all about, different motifs, and different influences, all came together to create this home-grown collection. The idea was a deliberate attempt to completely steer away from ANY form of embroidery, or of any kind of glittery ornamentation. My attempt was ONLY to let the FABRIC speak. Garments in every single ensemble contained more than four pieces, to bring alive the fluidity of khadi fabrics, giving the wearer the ability to move, to remove, to add on or wear ones own garment along with the rest, to make an outfit all your own. Universal garment silhouettes (as individual garment pieces) were embraced through Wraps, Ponchos, Sarongs, Capes, Dhotis, Capris, Pallazos, etc., and even the ‘gunghat’ was highlighted. Each of these individual pieces came together as one ensemble, which met with my vision of wanting to create ‘fusion’ clothing.

THE FEEL OF FREEDOM

Working with khadi, became, for me, a new experience. One is suddenly reminded of the fact that khadi was Gandhiji’s vision. He imbued it with a very specific purpose – to symbolise freedom. An unpretentious fabric became the coalescing strand and transcended from the human to the political realm. Khadi came to be synonymous with what politicians wear - crisp, white, over starched, and creasing all the time. Taking this very Indian textile, adding to it Indian looking colours, with Indian prints, I wanted khadi to surpass the human and the political into the divine and sublime. From the heavier weaves to the lightest, most gossamer fine or most malmal-like quality that they possess, it all just came together to create these new, stylish, trendy avatars that help promote Indian fabrics in a way which can be offered to international markets. Working on this collection, I drew on the fact that if Ireland could do for linen what it did, such that everyone today wants a linen outfit, well why can’t we sit and weave a cotton fibre and turn it into something incredible?

AFTERGLOW

The vindication of my vision came about in a three-fold manner. The first was when the models wearing the garments would stop me to ask ‘Are you sure this whole collection is handmade? Is it all khadi? Is it all handloom?’ For me, this is the greatest compliment I can get from the fashion conscious youth of today. The disbelief that khadi could be shown in a new avatar and the immediate wanting to adorn themselves in more garments like this. The second was when, as the Day 2 finale designer at the Rajasthan Heritage Week, my incredible team and I received a standing ovation and some incredible applause and compliments not just from the audience but from Rajasthan’s Chief Minister The Hon'ble Vasundhara Raje Scindia as well. Thirdly, I received the most positive comments on my collection from scathing reporters and people who gave me up as an old relic of a designer. This was truly the most exhilarating moment in the fabric of my time.

NATIVE SHIFT

Anybody who now develops as a designer or is already established and wishes to develop something based on pure Indian textiles must reinvent the loom to show the world that we are on par. But before we do that, we need to hem in the snags on the ground. Khadi Gramodyog Bhavans in various parts of India are government run. Picture sheaves and sheaves of folded fabric lying on row upon row of shelves. Nobody wants to touch them and no one is interested in pulling out various weightages. Imagine the deterrent to young designers. I have always wanted to use my indigenous understanding of Indian textiles, craft, and colour in my work. As the first internationally trained Indian designer, I have thus consciously returned to my roots to showcase my own understanding of where I come from and reflect the same in my clothes without being a copyist. If todays young minds were just presented with an opportunity to work with Indian textiles and move away from traditional and conservative Indian clothing, we will turn our fabrics into something that will appeal to the masses and to the youth of this country, who can then superlatively promote Indian handlooms globally. The ‘Make in India’ initiative is a start and I hope it is successful enough. All we need is to showcase our native textiles in a light that helps international markets and investors to understand that we can produce and deliver in quantity and quality, thus doing for Indian handloom craft and khadi what Ireland did for linen.

About the Author
Hemant Trevedi is a fashion designer who has created designs with a structure so seductive, they have locked within, the history of the fabric itself. He has dressed some of the most beautiful people and has choreographed models across the most prestigious runways, worldwide. As an educator, he has also woven some of the most talented minds and hands.

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Firsts
Fashion education is something that is extremely important for me. When you can impart your limited knowledge to anywhere between 40-100 receptive minds every year; that is the greatest gift. My big first was my very first job when I returned to India. There I was, 19 years old, the first internationally trained Indian designer, fresh from the design world, teaching 40 young minds who were just 1 or 2 years younger than I was. It was a high all its own!

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