Daniel Syiem, a young designer from Meghalaya who has showcased ethnic apparel in global fashion hubs like New York, London and Rome is working to empower women weavers from North Eastern state to preserve the dying art of weaving by making traditional fabric fashionable as itâ€™s not just a piece of cloth, itâ€™s actually the preservation of a way of life and culture of people.
Natural fabrics of the region -- Eri silk and Muga are hand-woven mostly in traditional loin looms. The Eri silk worms, which produce the famous Assam silk, are known in Meghalaya's Khasi-Jaintia Hills as Niang Ryndia. The silk is cultured to weave the trademark Ryndia shawls, while the worms are also considered a delicacy in many parts of Meghalaya.
Daniel, along with his friend Janessaline M. Pyngrope, launched the Daniel Syiem Ethnic Fashion House (DSEFH) in Shillong in 2011 to promote Ryndia (eri silk) and the traditional hand-woven fabrics of northeast India.
The art of making these textiles is slowly dying but Daniel who has rich experience in working with indigenous fabrics is striving to preserve the dying art of weaving by making traditional fabric fashionable.
Daniel has been instrumental in promoting women weavers of Meghalaya's Ri Bhoi district.
The making of these heritage fabrics has been passed down from generation to generation of weavers. The weavers need to be supported and encouraged by making their craft economically viable, Daniel said.
He said that the fashion house regularly holds meetings with the women weavers, and they work with them to innovate at yarn stage on dyes and weaves.
They have also been promoting designs and fabrics of other ethnic groups of the northeast, in particular the Naga Tangkhul tribe and also use accessories of the Mizo and other Naga tribes at their shows in Rome and Canada, said Daniel.
The Tangkhul tribe has a unique place among the Nagas and their dresses feature ornaments such as Kongsang and Huishon made of sea shells, cowrie and conch shells.
Daniel has showcased his work - ensembles for women in natural fabrics - in various fashion weeks in places like Rome, New York, London, Toronto, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Jaipur. His collections have featured in top fashion magazines like Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and Elle.
Janessaline, who is the business head, co-founder and partner in Daniel's fashion house said that they both have common goal of promoting, protecting and reviving the hand-woven fabrics of the North East of India. They decided to come together to create something unique and innovative with Ryndia through the medium of fashion.
Janessaline has earlier worked for a Meghalaya-based rural development project to uplift traditional weavers and introduce new and safe weaving looms.
In February, Daniel showcased his new collection 'FreeSpirit' in Toronto. The collection had classy shirts with innovative collars, asymmetrical skirts, bohemian palazzos, halter tops and dresses.
The unique use of natural, hand-woven and organic textiles like eri silk, in a colour palette of ivory, pastel greens and yellows, earthy browns in this collection, celebrates the triumph of spirit and the freedom to be your true self.
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