Imagine a model sashaying down the ramp in a chic sheath dress. As she struts closer, you realize that the dress is made of dhakai, the traditional weave from Bangladesh.
This is just one testimony to the fact that Bangladeshi weaves are going places. Says designer Sayantan Sarkar, “Traditional weaves are coming back in a big way, especially dhakai. It may look translucent but trust me, it’s one of the strongest weaves.”
Agnimitra Paul, who was in Dhaka recently for a show, admits, “Women in Bangladesh are very particular about their saris. That is one reason why indigenous fabrics have so much potential there.” Agnimitra says that young designers are collaborating with NGOs and working with traditional dhakai from Bangladesh and khadi. “While none of us could come up with such a novel idea, work has already progressed across the border,” she says.
Fabrics such as jamdani have also achieved global fame. Designer Soumitra Mondal is upbeat about the future of Bangladeshi weaves. “What we know as the tangail from Phuliya was actually started by weavers who came from Bangladesh and settled in this part of Bengal. We share so much more than the language. Our fashion history also goes back a long way and it also has come a long way. Just the other day, I had two Italian buyers enquiring about jamdani. I know artisans from New York who are doing a lot of work with this fabric. The only difference is, while the West is machine dependent, our work is finer as everything is handcrafted. Thanks to a radical shift in the international fashion scene, the focus is suddenly on handwoven products,” he says.
Bangladesh is not just famous for its weaves. “It is one of exporters of fabrics the biggest and finished products,” says designer Sharbari Dutta, adding, “That’s why they are extremely fashion conscious. They simply have to be up to date with the latest fashion trends in terms of fabrics and weaves, cuts and silhouettes.” Apart from showcasing her collections in Bangladesh and receiving critical acclaim, Sharbari has also worked extrensively on Rajshahi silk. “It’s one of the finest fabrics from Bangladesh. I love it because it is so soft. I have used it for many of my outfits. However, I have to reserve special praise for the cotton fotua. Bangladeshi designers have taken it to a different level! Men in Kolkata hardly wear them but in Dhaka, it’s a fashion statement!”