Thursday February 27, 2020

Threads that bind Indian textiles- Phulkari, Gujarati Patola, Kalamkari and Muga Silk

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By Ishaa Srivastva

Textiles in India are symbolic of a magnificent craft that has endured for thousands of years evolving out of a myriad of cultures and tastes. The pages of history will boast of how the Indian subcontinent traded with countries like Greece, Rome and Indonesia in textiles hundreds of years ago.

Around the world, our fabrics have been discovered at excavation sites. For instance, a block printed fabric, which originated in the state of Gujrat, was found in the tombs of Fostat, in Egypt, which points to our trade with the glorious Nile civilisation in Medieval times as well. There is evidence that people of the Harappan civilisation too, utilised homespun cotton for weaving their garments. The weaving tradition in India is dominated primarily by silk and cotton.

So why turn to banal and run-of-the-mill articles of ethnic wear, when we live in a country that is home to textiles which hold everlasting charm?

Phulkari: a Shroud of Flowers

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This refers to a form of handmade embroidery where intricate designs are created on fabric using colourful threads. Phulkari or ‘flower work‘ embroidery employs very simple and symmetrical  designs but the colour combination and the fashion in which they aligned, make it look spectacular.

The origin of Phulkari can be traced back to the 15th century, and the pioneers of this craft hail from the state of Punjab (North West India and Pakistan). It is an indispensable part their culture. Phulkari garments are especially worn at important moments of everyday life like religious functions, weddings, and births and deaths.

The flower work is usually practised on the odini (head scarf), dupatta and shawls, while for the longer garments, like the whole surface of a shroud or khaddar, another variation called Bagh (literally meaning ‘garden’) is used. This variation of Phulkari entirely covers the base cloth and requires tremendous talent, time, and patience. 

Gujrati Patola: The Queen of Silks

 

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Patola textile form dates back to the 11th century. This Double Ikat (technique of dying both the wasp and weft before weaving) technique is practised in Patan, Gujrat. In Rajkot however, only the weft is dyed, thus making the garments more affordable. The saree is characterised by vibrant hues, geometrical patterns and folk motifs.

What is unique about the Patola saree is that it are reversible, as both the surfaces are designed in the same manner. It is said that a real Patola design will endure for years, even though the fabric might wither.

Owning a Patola Saree has become a sign of social prestige. Patola has a creative, yet labour intensive process and preparing a single saree can require months. Each thread is dyed before it reaches the weaving process. Therefore, the prices can be astronomical.

Kalamkari: Organic Hand Painting

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It is an ancient art comprising both block printing and hand painting techniques. ‘Kalam’ is the Persian word for pen. Under this technique, craftsmen use two pens, one is a bamboo or date palm stick for the outlines, and the other is round and flat nib for filling the colours. What is unique in this technique is that it employs only organic ingredients; the fabric is washed in cow’s milk, and the dyes are prepared with flowers and vegetables. The art form is arduous and time consuming.

The Britishers had a reinvigorated interest in this art form and gave the process their own name, Chintz. In post independent India, the technique has been used in paintings and employs chemical processes as well, but the reason why you should buy it is because there is a charm, and certain nostalgia in wearing a soft Kalamkari fabric.   

Muga Silk: The Pride of Assam

 

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Muga silk is symbolic of the traditional attire of the Assam region. In Assamese, muga means yellow. This silk is one of its kind and considered superior to its counterpart, the white silk. Due to low porosity of the threads, the silk cannot be dyed or bleached. It is however, popular for the natural golden colour, glossy texture and durability. Unlike, other silks, Muga silk can and should be hand washed; they say that the lustre of Muga only increases with every wash.

Muga is considered the most sophisticated textile in Assam, and is a premium product used in making garments like Mekhala Chador (the traditional dress of Assam), sarees, handkerchiefs etcetera. It takes two months to weave a saree, and a thousand cocoons to yield 125 gms of silk, making the Muga Silk exorbitant. The other varieties of silk in Assam include endi and pala.

Saulkuchi, the silk village of Assam, has a weaving history that dates back to the 11th century. Situated 35 kgs from Guhawati, in the Kamrup district, it is a popular destination for obtaining silk and other indigenous fabrics.

Typically Ethnic

With deft fingers and a vivid cultural lineage, our craftsmen weave magic into the garments that epitomize our cultural multitude. Young people have woken up to realize the importance of preserving tradition and opt for ethnic textiles specially during festivals. Our traditional robes have even inspired country’s contemporary fashion designers.

It’s time to look into the variety that our own country has to offer and support our craftsmen in perpetuating our cultural dynamism.  

Next Story

Know About the Changes in the Indian Fashion Industry in 2019

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The Indian Fashion Industry has witnessed major positive developments in the year 2019. Pixabay

BY PUJA GUPTA

As we prepare to enter the New Year, its time to reassess 2019 and the directions come out very strongly for the fashion apparel industry. Looking back, the year has witnessed a lot of positive changes in the Indian fashion industry; both retail and manufacturing.

Right from the influx of overseas fashion brands to India, expansion of both domestic and overseas apparel exporters to policy reforms and the emergence of start-ups, India has seen it all in 2019, underlines Mayank Mohindra, Director, Apparel Sourcing Week.

Mohindra takes us through the major developments that have happened in the Indian fashion industry in 2019.

1. Expansion at different levels

Relaxed FDI helps retail brands’ expansion -This year saw some of the most positive changes in India’s retail scenario with policy reforms. Indian fashion retail market values about $50 billion in 2019 and is set to grow to $115 billion by 2027.

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Homegrown ventures managed to garner $ 7.67 billion in the first 9 months of 2019. Pixabay

Parfait, Under Armor, Uniqlo are some of the big overseas brands that forayed into the vibrant Indian fashion retail market in 2019. Expansion of overseas companies in manufacturing 2019 is said to be one of the finest years in recent times for the Indian apparel manufacturing industry.

The country has somehow been able to restructure itself and rose around 7 per cent in its apparel exports to the world till October.

Hong Kong-based Epic group announced $ 20 million investment in Ranchi. South Korea’s bigwig Youngone Corporation also announced to invest $ 140 million at the Kakatiya Mega Textile Park (KMTP) at Warangal, Telangana.

Another major expansion has been confirmed by one of the major Sri Lankan apparel manufacturing companies, Brandix.

2. Start-up culture grown significantly

2019 has produced over half a dozen unicorn start-ups, 8 to be precise. Homegrown ventures managed to garner $ 7.67 billion in the first 9 months of 2019. A remarkable feat, as these start-ups are attracting more and more international investors. Clovia, Zivame, Fynd, CouchFashion, CutomitNow, Styched, Vajor and Zinnga are some of the start-ups that have grown multiple times in 2019.

Bengaluru-based Styched, an affordable, fast-fashion e-commerce venture, has raised angel funding of $ 2.30 million from a clutch of angel investors. Lingerie brand Zivame has already reported that, as of September 2019, it has hit a Rs 300+ crore revenue.

3. E-commerce and M-commerce success in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities

E-commerce and M-commerce have not just remained relevant to Tier-1 cities now as rising spending capacity and the use of the Internet have made it possible for the Indian consumers in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities to go digital.

Flipkart introduced a Hindi interface for its customers in 2019 to help them understand its platform easily in rural areas pan India. Amazon claimed that around 65 per cent of its sales came from Tier-2, Tier-3 and Tier-4 towns and cities. More than 80 per cent of its new customers also came from these places and one out of every 3 customer purchased from the fashion category.

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Expansion of overseas companies in manufacturing 2019 is said to be one of the finest years in recent times for the Indian fashion manufacturing industry. Pixabay

4. Textile policy reforms

Special package for the apparel industry, demonetisation, GST and change in labour laws are four major policy-level decisions of the government in recent years, which have impacted the overall economy as well as the apparel and textile industry. 2019 will be known as a renewal year for National Textile Policy. Another reform done was the introduction of Rebate of State and Central Taxes and Levies (RoSCTL) policy.

5. US-China trade war

Dominated trade discussion -US-China trade war was among the major issues across the global apparel and textile industry all through 2019. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTD) has reported that India got an overall benefit of $ 755 million and Vietnam of about $ 2,601 million from this trade war.

India’s Readymade garment (RMG) exports to USA jumped to $308.48 million from $277.29 million in October ’18. Cumulatively, India’s apparel export to the world escalated by 4.50 per cent in Jan.-Oct. ’19 period.

6. Sustainability

More than social sustainability, environmental sustainability was the highlight of 2019. This has become the buzzword now and everybody in the fashion industry is talking about 4 Rs: Reuse, Reduce, Rework and Recycle.

Also Read- Follow these Tips and Don’t let the Pollution Damage your Hair

The first 3Rs are more of the social approach to sustainability, while the major debate is happening over ‘Recycle’ which is more of a technical approach in sustainability. Putting up ETP plants and solar plants in a factory was the thrust initially since the calculative return on investment (ROI) was easier and manageable.

Plastic used in packaging is another major thrust for which no particular sustainable alternative has yet been identified. (IANS)