Sustainability and innovation joining hands to meet export demands…
Despite handicraft industry being an important component of the textile sector and also a focus area for the Government, artisans are far from being able to generate enough to sustain their livelihood. But working towards preserving our own heritage and tradition, many known brands have been trying their best to translate the age-old embroidery styles found across the country, as also shibori and ikat weaving techniques in modern ways, to ensure betterment in artisan’s source of revenue and craft promotion. Organizations, like Soma, Dastakri Haat Samiti, Mura Collective and Fab India, amongst others hope to make a difference by ensuring that traditional techniques are translated in modern processes to touch today’s need for innovation.
For years, Indian artisans have put together their efforts, creativity and sheer talent to bring out the best of traditional techniques. “With the sluggish global demand of handicraft, we are trying our best to find innovative ways to increase volume in domestic as well as international markets,” avers, Raj Kumar, Head Designer, Leela Shyam Exports, a Pushkar-based export house. Sujani and Banjara embroidery, Bawanbuti extra-weft weaving style, mirror work are some of the traditional crafts which are getting incorporates in new designs. “Imparting newness into an age-old craft gives interesting modification to the technique and results in more acceptability by the customers, which will subsequently lead to increase in orders,” adds Raj.
A popular brand from Jaipur, Soma, is also imparting world-class styling into traditional block-prints. The ingenuity of Soma is in the way they have managed to showcase products made following traditional block printing craft while giving this craft stature in the retail market differentiated by distinct quality, exclusivity and timelessness. Soma represents traditional techniques in a special way to Indian and international consumers through their innovative ideas, refined colour sensibility and world-class styling. The transformation of traditional handprints in to stylized clothes and furnishings for contemporary living is their staple trend.
Mixing several geometric and abstract motifs, yet floral prints make a larger presence on their clothes and furnishings. Soma’s floral prints represent love, romance, acceptance and compassion.
Mixing several geometric and abstract motifs, yet floral prints make a larger presence in their clothes and furnishings. Soma’s floral prints represent love, romance, acceptance and compassion. Designers from around the world contribute to Soma’s repertoire of designs and ideas, resulting in free flowing creativity from many sources. “Moving for some time now, we can’t really say that folklore embroidery and prints are new, but taking a break from floral and geometric interpretations, we are printing folksy prints making the trend economically viable and more feasible for both the exporter and the buyer. We are trying to develop never-seen-before combinations and prints to give the contemporary silhouettes developed in traditional print techniques an innovative touch,” says Andree Pouliot, Creative Director, Soma Blockprints Pvt. Ltd. Closest to the strengths of India, designers are experimenting with diverse embroideries, using vibrant colours, rich prints bringing out the flavour of craft.
Forming the perfect example of the geometric designs, the Mexican symbols made by knitting and embroidery on the clothes like simple triangles, rectangles, rhombuses, zigzag lines, stepped borders, helical patterns, and crosses – go in line with the most talked about trend of geometric inspired tribal patterns along with the archetypical paisleys and florals. Fabindia has been always popular regarding its indigo dyed clothing and block printed kurtas. Asawari, one of the vendors for Fabindia is also adding various twists to their printing techniques and motifs. “Our current designs are a blend of both traditional and contemporary. So you have the time-tested booti effect expanding in size to give it a new look. Bold geometric patterns are trending big, while the paisleys have been reintroduced with a multi-coloured layered effect. The different shades of blue like indigo, navy blue, teal have caught my attention and they have been played out for the right effect. All this drama is unfolding on a white background with mulmul as a fabric of choice. We have cemented Indian sensibilities with western cuts with deconstructed tops, tunics, waist coats and flared skirts all showcasing the art of block printing,” informs, Sawrabh Kumar, Designer, Asawari.
Picking up the beautiful surface adorning techniques residing in the heart of crafts, some exporters have made craft-based collection development their USP. And one such company is the Tushar Group from Jaipur. Currently working with a diverse variety of 12 brands under the same roof, the company believes in innovating within the handicraft parameters and do go for the artisans. “Each country has a different taste, so we try and position our brands in 12 different directions. The brand identity and conceptualization differs in each brand. Like the ‘cycle range’ is more French-oriented, the ‘tuk-tuk range’ is more Japanese, and then if you see ‘scooter range’, the fabrics, silhouettes and designs are mainly targeting US customers. As we are a handicraft-based company we try and incorporate techniques with a contemporary version. Every time we have to make a new design, as at the end of the day I have to get jobs for my people. We are doing many kinds of washes, in a particular fabric. We don’t use plain printed fabrics, we try and mix it with washing and hand embroidery. We do a mixture of techniques to give a unique look,” informed, Tushar, Head Designer, Tushar Group.
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Another globally recognised company, Anokhi’s roots also lie in Jaipur. Dyeing with vegetable colours is the oldest of colouring techniques and a speciality of the brand. Anokhi’s designs blend contemporary sensibilities with traditions of excellence. Its designers seek the bold and the striking, the graphic and the colourful, using modern printing techniques to keep pace with a demanding and fast moving world market, keeping the spirit of resurgence always alive.
Traditional techniques are also known for their adverse effects on natural resources. Fabric wastage, water wastage in dyeing and washing are some of the factors which are putting traditional techniques in the danger zone. But these organisations that are trying to bring newness to the traditional front are also looking at sustainability options. The first thematic park – Switch Asia – on block printing in the country at Jaipur has created a new benchmark for the textile industry setting up a common effluent treatment plant (CEPT) that would achieve zero discharge, and recycle and reuse around 90 per cent of waste water. Switch Asia is already working with 16 craft clusters and 30 textile parks in the country and in its second phase under the ‘Go Green’ programme it plans to focus on five clusters in Rajasthan. Companies are opting for organic dyeing methods which cut down the water resource usage. Three to four fabric lengths are dyed together and printed together to stop ink wastage. Batches of commodities are dyed in the same dye bath to reduce water consumption and to achieve different shades of the same colour for various designs.