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Fabric Innovations

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Textile revivalists are twisting the warp and weft to add design innovations at the loom stage, giving birth to a fabric that is supple, drape-y and super comfy.

It is the only way to evolve and move your design repertoire a step forward. And this is the reason why textile revivalists are indulging in fabric innovations at the loom level giving each piece a distinct identity.

Paromita Banerjee

Kolkata’s hidden jewel Paromita Banerjee likes to keep it simple yet effective. Hence, she chose Dhakai Jamdani to start her work with. Dhakai Jamdani is one of the finest examples of a craft that has won both favour and patronage, but what it needed was a twist, as it was mostly woven in muslin. What Banerjee did was use mulberry silk with cotton motifs keeping the inherent context of the craft intact, while playing around with fabric and texture.

“Earlier, it was so fi ne that you could pass it through a ring; now it is not so. We sourced the silk from Bengaluru and Assam, and the biggest challenge was to convince weavers in Phulia to make yardage and not saris (the latter sells more). I believe that the craft must  not be fi ddled with, so what I did was to make the fabric ideal for autumn-winter rather than just restrict it to summer,” she adds. But that is not all. Banerjee’s admiration for the 4,000-yearold technique of Ajrakh dyeing using organic blocks and keeping the Islamic motifs was a task when she decided to use placement blocks, which give the effect of patchwork.

This resulted in an innovative line, Tana-Bana 2014, where you could not tell that it was not patchwork as the garment was seamlessly printed. “The Ajrakh print technique in our collections has been followed in the traditional processes. I tried incorporating what I would term as in-house placement printing where two or more different print blocks have been used to give an illusion of a patchwork fabric, while in actuality it is placement block print using multiple wooden blocks,” she explains.

The third innovation looks simple, but in reality, it is a complex mathematical puzzle that starts at the loom stage. Banerjee, to add texture, mixed the plain with a basket weave and infused colour blocking to it for understated drama, and then the pattern was repeated after the 14th block. “I am not so much of a silhouette designer, as those I keep minimal, but what I like to do is make it spectacular at the weaving stage so that the fabric has an unmistakable character,” she smiles.

Deepika Govind

Bengaluru-based Deepika Govind has always strived hard to give dignity to forgotten textiles, which are slowly vanishing from the modern design vocabulary. Quiet but determined, she works on the fabric ingeniously to give her loyal customers something more than just what one can buy off the rack. Her textile mergers include Eri blended with modal to make shawls as soft as cashmere; Ikats in silk; knits, silk or modal blend for her special collection; pop icons motifs on Pop Patola collection. New weaves in Muga, also aroma washes in Muga silk and, most importantly, ‘Threads of Gold’ for KSIC Mysore silk along with a loom fi nished sari in crepe silk. “For me, it was critical to make natural fibres user friendly, so that they feel soft on the body and do not easily crush or crumple. There have been a lot of innovations executed on linen, cotton and rayon, but few in silk and Muga, which is what I attempted to undertake.

I also added aroma and anti-perspiring washes to make textiles tactile,” she smiles. Govind’s first step was to blend Eri with modal (cotton), as she wanted to promote the peace silk. So she does something with it every year, though the challenge remained to be able to dye it, which she discovered after several trials and errors that it could be done after degumming and removing resins. “I crafted shawls out of Eri, which were as
soft as cashmere or pashmina. Eri has thermal properties; it remains cool in summer and warm in winter. This was a unique aspect that I hoped to explore,” she adds.

Fighting the mindset that textiles are often unseeingly stiff and unwearable, Govind wanted to make them easy-towear, comfortable and most importantly relevant for a young girl’s wardrobe. So she added drapy knits to Ikat, making it supple, adding stretch and in the process enticing customers with its fall, but without compromising on the ethic of the craft. “Knitted Ikat falls and fi ts well so it was mission accomplished,” she laughs.

Govind is not the one to give up easily, so her next experiment was with Pop Patola, in which she used modern iconography, woven into the fabric. She is extremely proud of the Muga storyboard where it was woven in Dobby, jacquard and satin giving it an unmistakable sheen. “Muga from Assam has a natural gold luster. It has the ability to become more luminous with each wash. I just wanted to add surface textures to it just like I did with KSIC Mysore silk, by adding real gold zari to it,” she explains.

Rahul Mishra

He is the man to watch out for; this year’s International Woolmark Prize winner Rahul Mishra is not the one to go the conventional route. He is an innovator, a design maverick who has attempted to change the structure of natural fi bres to amalgamate them with newer techniques. So his latest innovation is Bandhini on merino wool jersey, with extraweft technique, which created a translucent wool fabric for summer. “Bandhini is mostly executed on Mulberry silk, as it requires a robust texture but I wanted to craft a fabric that has wool but can be worn in summer. So we came up with a mix of jersey and wool, which even after washing does not open the tie and dye, Bandhini. Making wool palpable was a task so we worked on the inner dynamics of the construction to alter it and make it suitable,” he adds.

Mishra also worked for a project with Taj Hotel, Khazana, as part of their philanthropic efforts, where they help languishing villages; and Pochampally, which they narrowed down on, needed a design intervention. Pochampally was combined with Ikat, which is usually done in monochromes or double coloured motifs. Mishra dyed it in multiple colours like the oldest and fi nest Ikat you find in Indonesia, but also managed to include
huge motifs in it, inspired by Samarkand, which you will now only fi nd in the V & A Museum, London.

With his heart set on taking Indian crafts global, Mishra embarked on another ambitious project – the engineered Chanderi and Jamdani to suit garment construction. “Jamdanis and Chanderis are mostly loom made for saris and dupattas, with the entire orientation inclined towards this kind of weaving, so the resulting yardage is mostly unfit for silhouettes other than that. We enlarged the motifs, pre-decided where the motifs will be placed on the garment without getting cut, and also ensured that there is no fabric wastage,” he adds.

Gaurav Jai Gupta

Among those who like to experiment even though they may not be successful at many of those outings is Gaurav Jai Gupta, who for his NIFT graduating project mixed cotton with copper wires. But what he was triumphant at was the interesting feature of crushed pallus in a sari, with the growing number of women telling him that they hated pinning it up. “We wanted to add the innovation in weaving and not tamper with the sari at a later stage. So we added a high stretch yarn in the weft to get the desired effect and this can be done in mostly all fabrics from silk to cotton. Youngsters actually quite loved it and that was what we wanted,” he adds.

But Gupta’s ingenuity did not end with that. He added stainless steel in the weft to the extremely fi ne monofi lament silk and then played around with monofi lament silk with Swarovski crystal yarns. “Swarovski is mostly added on the garment, but what we did was use Swarovski crystal thread and weave with silk and steel. It was not commercially successful, but that was something we did not realise when we started. However, failure did not deter us. We are paving the way for the future generations and telling them to be nafraid of taking the road less travelled,” he concludes.

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