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fabric

Clothing, Lifestyle

Sexy In Sequins

July 11, 2019
Sequins

It was a hot summer noon in Delhi and we decided to meet over coffee. As I walked into the crowded snaky lane of Shahpur Jat, I recalled the little unknown spot in Delhi with a handful of shops. The growth of this place from the 90’s to today is the greatest sign of the changing fabric of the city. To me it was a realisation that the hours doesn’t stop for anyone ever. Time has a strange way of telling us that this is not your resting spot; it keeps moving just as you think you have settled into a constant and life shakes you out of your comfort zone.

As I walked into the familiarity of the old café with kettles hanging and beautiful home décor, I ordered my favourite black coffee and as I waited, I noticed each gentle well mannered staff in the store were from the north east of India. I immediately struck a conversation and I could sense that feeling of camaraderie and the simplicity found in hill folk. I am often happily mistaken for an Assamese or a Nepali. And I love playing along with my broken knowledge of both the languages.

As I settled into the familiarity of the city of my birth and was about to take my first sip of coffee, I looked up to see Sonam Dubal walking into the store. He looked the eclectic designer that he is. A fine cotton black kurta, glasses and a big bag and as he apologised for being few minutes late, he complimented me with an endearing honesty. I could see the frank appreciation in his eyes. I felt at ease and as we ordered for our cake, he spoke in Nepali to the staff and I joined in showing him my language skills. We settled into a known sense of not belonging to our current spaces yet not knowing how to return to the old. He told me he was from Sikkim. I told him I was from Shillong. We both took mouthful of cake bites and coffee. We spoke about our undying love for the East – the often neglected and not showcased craft of India’s extreme corner, often referred to as North East with little knowledge of each state and its art.

We finished our cake and walked up into his store. The store had tasteful designs and embroidery on western jackets and Ikkat shift dresses and a major influence of the Islamic design structure. I loved the Mughal inspired designs. And I gravitated towards a black Angarakha.

Sequins

Sequins

 

I tried on the Anghrakha and it was tad bit loose and Sonam promised to get it fixed to my size. Which was done and delivered to my hotel room that evening.

This Angarakha is a cotton muslin with black sequins border. As you wrap the garment you can tighten the sides with metal buttons resembling a Chinese traditional jacket button, again adding to the Indo-Asian silhouette of this design collection.

Sonam Dubal’s brand – Sanskar – is  the for the uber stylish woman who cradles both the traditional and the contemporary with equal panache. As I walk out in this garment with my black kohl eyes and a nude lipstick, I feel uber sexy in the way it wraps around my body. Just how love is or should be. Just gently wrapped in the warmth of your own skin yet against each other.

Art & Culture, Clothing

The New Snob In The Block Called Khadi

June 20, 2019
Khadi bustier

When a bright brick red bustier hangs from the mighty colossal hangers of vanity, you are confused what to feed the ever growing, demanding devil. Amidst all that predicament, shouts out a soft voice inside you. It gravitates towards the memories of the past. In those racks I found the soft silks, the flowing georgette, the linen, the cotton and in all that is the rough exterior but soft to touch, the lost story of Khadi. It is hanging on to its last remnants of survival with hope of a new beginning.

The bustier by Mishe is an ode to the age old fabric of India. A fabric that has seen the blood of the martyrs of India. We had forgotten Khadi in this quest of wanting more. We sold our loyalty quite easily to the arrival of mixed unnatural fabrics. And now is emerging the revival of Khadi in the haute couture of India. Leading designers are creating designs with the long lost unsung protagonist called Khadi.

This bustier fabric of Khadi was woven in Barmer, Rajasthan, in the dusty little town – where its arid landscape and cattle fair makes it known among the tourists. Barmer was known as Mallani in the 12th century. Over time, places have changed their geographical demeanour and the onset of modernisation destroyed moderation. The cattle fair is still a tourist crowd puller. In Barmer lies a small fort on top of the city, also known as Barmer Garh. This has been witness to the changing hands of history of this region.

 

Khadi bustier by Mishe

Khadi bustier by Mishe

 

Mishe, like many designers today, are inspiring artisans and craftsmanship to incorporate the legacy of Khadi into the contemporary fabric landscape. A fabric that was considered coarse and not chic, is the choice of fabric and runways in many fashion shows today.

My relationship with Khadi dates back to my grandfather, who loved me dearly and I called him Dadu. As Ma rebelled against her in-laws in moving out of the ancestral family home. She was 22 and a young mother in Shillong. A town where she knew no one except the faith she had in her husband – my father. He settled her at home just in the initial phase and then he began his travelling job. She was lost in that large Bengali household. They were hostile to her. As she packed to leave with her little girl of few months, Dadu came from Delhi to help her settle with her little daughter.

Dadu lived with us till I was in class 2 and I still recall the winter and rain drenched streets of Shillong as he waited for me to finish school and he stood there, behind the tall walls of my school – Loreto Convent – in his Khadi Bandhgala coat. He endearingly called me Didimoni. His stories were about kingdoms and prince and princesses. As he got me ready, he used to dress me after school in a yellow embroidered Khadi coat. The winters were bitter and the money wasn’t sufficient. Khadi helped keep the cold away. Ma was ambitious and wouldn’t settle for anything less than a chaste Convent education for her only child. I didn’t understand how she navigated her loneliness, her financial situation and total lack of support from her extended family.

Today I bow my head to this historical fabric that has seen the changes of India. It is again on its way of resurgence with elegance and a snobbery of belonging to the thinking masses.

The Khadi boutiques and fashion shows have Khadi as the order of the day. I smile every time I see a Khadi clothing. I know somewhere in those folds lie my memory of Dadu, those winding lanes of wet and cold Shillong, the big umbrella covering the constant rain and he waiting for me in his Khadi jacket. It was frugal in comparison to the other fabrics of those years. Today it’s reaching a place in the wardrobes of the richer and I am smug at this yearning of youngsters to belong to the new India.

Clothing

Desires Cut Into The Fabric Of Love

March 14, 2019
Moody Mo

My love for good things began very early on. To the utter horror of my middle-class parents, they were worried I wouldn’t ever settle for the mediocre. A factory outfit never made me feel my best, it had to be a bespoke outfit. After much thought and pondering would my tailor add the Kutch mirror work patch or the lace to give my mundane outfit its edge, and make it my statement. The aim was always adding an Indian sensibility over my denim or the check-patterned Kilt.

With this undying need to be always surrounded by beautiful things, it surely was a constant struggle with my limited income. I had that discerning eye for all good things, including my male friends. I wasn’t exactly generous at that choice, but he needed to have more than just good looks to keep my interest going. Most times, I was disappointed so I decided to put my energy into clothing that saluted an art form of India. As usual, most things had to be a cut above the rest. Being raised as a Bengali in Delhi, you are forever struggling between the two identities that you can’t fathom when which one takes over. The constant struggle of being a quintessential Bengali with the cacophony of the Peacock Punjabi. It surely was a sure shot path to schizophrenia. But my love for Rajasthan and it’s arts and crafts is a constant. Till date, it remains a passion that needs regular acknowledgement. Every week four times at least, I wear a Bandhini or a Sanganer print over my jeans, that size hasn’t remained constant. I recall the small store in the early days of fashion-hungry Bangalore at Commercial Street which had RJP, Rohit Bal, Anita Dongre and few more well-known designers. RJP always stole my heart with his fine cotton and minimalist design sensibility.

RJP is famous for his pintuck kurtas and remarkable indigos. I had to attend an elite function at Bombay; a very important second wedding of a friend. I had to look the part, so I choose this black cutwork kurta over a white crinkled skirt to wear for one of the evenings. It was my first Rajesh Pratap Singh ensemble. Cutwork is typically a technique where you cut the fabric, resulting in holes, which is reinforced with embroidery or needle lace. It originates in Italy and is called Punto Tagliato. Renaissance was the period of new things and cutwork began in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. And even in the fashion world of today, cutwork is very much prevalent and is also called lace. The hand cutwork is one of the most traditional forms of this art.

As a child, I still recall the sari petticoats that were dried in the sun with cutwork on its edges. Our home linen had cutwork on them. So cutwork was a natural draw to my senses. Senses that were carved from nostalgia and memory. RJP cutwork kurta makes me feel sensual without baring much. The arms on one side have the cutwork that reaches up to my shoulder blades. It fits like a dream and black makes me feel sexy, desirable and shapely. In spite of the PMS bingeing, black is so forgiving. Just like how a gentleman should be. Most women over time stop listening to the voice of their bodies and the need to be cherished. Just as we are flawed or perfect. Because beauty is a factory idea, created by the advertising lobby. Real women have fat and bad moods.

Like great love stories where there is passion, romance and my favourite word called Ishq.RJP with his signature pintuck kurtas and this cutwork design makes me crave for the moonlight on my shoulder blades and my lover finding spaces to kiss away my loneliness between the neatly cut fabric. Exposing just that much and more.

 

 

 

Art & Culture, Clothing, Travel

Song Of Sanganer

December 13, 2018
Sanganer

Traveling to Jaipur with school friends for my birthday was a trip reminiscing the days of no money. Fights over some grace marks to make it through some exam, somewhere deep conversations about lost friendships, our first love and how life was slowly changing shape in our eyes. What seemed important earlier isn’t so any longer. What we craved for seemed so inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. We spoke about losing parents, divorce, children flying the nest. Most evenings we dressed up to drink in style and fight over which song to sing or hear. As the night progressed the voices got louder, we laughed at all our heartbreak and recalled the stupid men we loved and lost. We also promised friendship that would last as long as we could take a trip together and visit each other’s homes. As the night progressed the vodka was finally doing all the conversations. Crying, laughing and blown we planned the next day itinerary to visit Sanganer.

The promise was to start early but as always vodka decides when we can pull ourselves out of that haze of the night before. We all sauntered out at the nick of breakfast closing time. Again forgot time sat and eventually decided to take the dusty road to Sanganer village, the hub for block printing of Rajasthan. It was a fun road trip into the narrow lanes with traders selling wholesale fabrics. There were shops that sold bed linen with the typical dyes and motifs of Rajasthan.

Sanganer town is known world over for its colourful block printed textiles and hand made paper. Most tourists are taken on that route for an excursion to witness the micro, small and medium printing units running in that little town. The people there are dependent on the Sanganeri print industry for their livelihood. It’s an art form that has been passed on through the generations.

Rajasthan being a dry arid land, the dye from Sanganer has the Saraswati river water that flows through the colours of the print that is radiant of the naturally dyed fabric.

This art form is 500 years old, it gained popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries in all European countries with its calico prints. It was one of the major exports from the East India Company. The Chhipa caste engage in this block printing technique and is a coveted art form and the pride of so many homes outside Sanganer.  The aesthetic styles just adds so much sophistication to a drab ambiance in any home or a garment with its traditional motifs and the colour scheme.

In Sanganer we see the perfect union of the two most volatile religions of India create art together. The Chhipas are Hindus and they are involved in the washing,  dyeing, and the printing process. The block makers are the Muslims of Sanganer. A lesson which the rest of India could learn from this sleepy, dusty town forgotten by us city dwellers.

As I went mad seeing all the swathes of fabric around me. I picked up my bag with the loot of  Sanganer. I realised I was carrying marigold, peacocks, jasmine and javakusum flowers in my memory of the holiday. And I know everytime I wear the fabric I bought from that dusty town, the fragrance of the river and the mud scent stays on my body. I know I can also remember the silence with which we drove back from that trip. Each of us prisoners in our thoughts, hoping next year would be different from this one.

We trudge on and Sanganer continues with its belief that no matter what. Art will live a life full, in its fabrics, music and the fading sun of Rajasthan.

Sanganer is a song that needs no tune, it’s hums on its own scales, reaching a crescendo, that beauty, art, and belief are immortal in this universe.

 

 

Clothing

The twist of the humble Towel or the Gamcha

August 17, 2018

Growing up years, when my friends visited my home and in the backyard, my mother’s red check gamcha would billow in the Delhi summer dry winds to dry. I was ashamed of that absolute frugal piece of cloth and tried covering it with my dupatta or another sari drying there, so that no one would know the gamcha presence in our home. Ma refused to use the other stuff and explained to me that this fabric soaked the water from her long tresses much better than what any other towel could.

As I traveled into the northeast and in Assam saw the white and red embroidered gamcha. I just fell into love with the sheer finesse of the white fabric with beautiful motifs hand embroidered into the fabric. I wouldn’t dare bring that back as a gift for my friends in Delhi.

Maybe they wouldn’t understand what it is to weave that craft into your everyday habits.

As I grew older and out of the Turkish towel fetish. I understood that to soak my long hair after my bath would be this non-pretentious gamcha.

Last year during my annual visit to Calcutta into one of the lanes where you pass the Misti shop that sells Bengali sweets is a building that has the traditional Bengali rangoli at its entrance. As I navigate my way up the stairs I find myself in the studio of Shoma Badoni and her collection of absolute delights with the gamcha.

The gamcha till now was the one-dimensional product that only bathrooms had. Here was a collection of dhoti pants, shrugs, saris and skirts and hair bands and scrunchies with the gamcha fabric.

It was mind-boggling to know what you could do with that check fabric.

There were monotones of red with darker red and there were small checks to bigger checks. All were done aesthetically keeping the gamcha fabric as the protagonist in this creative conquest,

I was treated to the Bengali hospitality of good tea and savory while I preened and propped against the chair to catch my reflection in her mirror.

She told me how this was a dying weave and it bleeds to see this everyday boring piece of fabric just languishing and among few more designers in Calcutta, she is trying to uplift the weave and art of gamcha making.

Gamcha fabric clothing has been paving its way into the international circuit of fashionable clothing.

Suddenly I am treating the gamcha with more than what it received from me before.

Closer home I tell Ma that she should try making a blouse with that fabric and she hasn’t shot down the idea.

It may not be possible to simultaneously use this as a formal dressing up. But days the sun is shining less bright and your mood is dapper and daring, wear the gamcha over your tee or your halter or denim. Mix the rebellious and restrained with the checks to keep you in check with the shifting sands and the shifting sunshine in the heart of your creative best.