The third day of the Lakmé Fashion Week was dedicated to the Indian Textile Day celebrating the weaves and crafts of the country. The first of the six workshops held at Lakmé Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2012 had an eminent panel of designers and experts who spoke on the subject, “The resurgence of Indian Weaves and Crafts – nurturing the growth of Indian Textile Heritage.”
The audience at The Source listened to observations and suggestions from the panellists with rapt attention. Moderating the discussion was Maximiliano Modesti, fashion entrepreneur based between Paris and Mumbai for the past 15 years.
The eminent Panellists were:
- Krishna Mehta, pioneering designer for men’s designer wear in India and promoter of the textiles and crafts in the country.
- Bibhu Mohapatra, Orissa born designer par excellence now the whiz kid in New York is making waves on the fashion scene.
- Sabyasachi Mukherjee, India’s ultimate craft presenter and designer, has nurtured the textiles and weaves of India and is a global best-seller.
- Seth Petchers, CEO Shop for Change Fair Trade is building the market and the movement for fair trade in India.
- Praful Shah, Chairman and Managing Director of Garden Silk Mills Ltd made the Garden name a household word.
- Darshan Shah, Founder of the Weavers Studio involved with promoting Indian textiles since the past 17 years.
The discussion was opened by Maximiliano Modesti who wanted suggestions from the panellists on how Indian weaves and crafts could be nurtured modernised and preserved since India is passionate about craft and unique.
Krishna Mehta made some valid observations that India has a wealth of arts and crafts with people making beautiful things in villages but times have changed. “If designers can help to create things that are adaptable and bring new technology and nurture more weavers; then there will be progress. Education should be from the school level and design students should remember their culture roots and strengths since the world wants our field of expertise.”
Giving her thoughts, Darshan Shah queried how one can guarantee work for craftsmens? “We are a growing market and we need to garner the talent and nurture creativity. Children need to be sensitised to Indian art. Museums are not well kept and one needs to bring to the foreground professionalism and organisation and educate the people right from the school level. We can help in marketing, but the government must be conscientious and a partnership between the government, crafts and market should be created. Communication networks are needed.”
She felt that design schools are not trained to do a project in villages. The feel for the country is lacking. “People want to make money in a short time so short cuts are used and challenges are not taken up. Bring in the master craftsmen for workshops on vegetable dyes and fabrics. Study the history and crafts of India. We spend lakhs on foreign goods but not on a Jamdani scarf,” she bemoaned.
Sabyasachi Mukherjee was more vocal and hard hitting when he stated frankly “The biggest problem is fashion education. Only 1/20th of the education in fashion schools is dedicated to Indian textiles. Most institutes emulate foreign curriculum but take the example of MacDonald who brought in the aloo tikki. Students are not aware of the basis of a sari and want to design for a foreign client without knowing what that client wants. The reality of fashion lies in India’s cultural diversity, he emphasized.
Praful Shah revealed that Garden creates designs which will sell all over the world, “So we go for volume and the mass market”.
Bibhu Mohapatra who is catering to a global market, has been coming to India often and is involved with a project in Orissa has tapped into his roots but would like to find a group to connect with craft for his work. “I went to the villages in Orissa for a project but was discouraged because being in New York I needed the Indian craft there.” He hoped that Indian designers find their individuality.
Millions of rupees worth of Sabyasachi’s copies are sold and the designer stated that he was happy to create the ripple and let the other vultures come in and sustain the market. Today people are looking or quicker faster solutions. The Paithani looks like a Jamdani and craft is bastardized. “Tampering with the crafts system, damages the crafts and the eco system,” he remarked.
Seth Petchers hoped that the farmers will be given a voice. “Cotton is the root of India and farmers are part of the textile industry.”
Darshan Shah gave a great clarion call when she stated “Make the mission statement – use as many hands as possible so that the weavers and crafts can survive. Don’t piggy back on other designers but set values, principals and nurture crafts and weavers.”