The Handloom and Textile Day at the Winter/Festive 2015 edition of the Lakme Fashion Week that concluded last week with the launch of Anita Dongreâ€™s collection Grassroot. The collection created using Ahir embroidery from Gujarat, Ikat from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Warli patterns from the folk art of Maharashtra and hand-block prints on matka silk from Bhagalpur.
Anita Dongre, known for her decorative luxury prÃªt and bridal wear had two instant appeal points in her collection. It was simple, a hallmark of painstaking back-end processes, quality and craftsmanship. Two, it was truly globalâ€”easy, stylish silhouettes, flared trousers in linen with cropped anti-fit blouses, finely constructed jackets with long dresses that had one-side slits, asymmetrical loose tunics paired with wide bottoms, dresses, long kurtas and hand-embroidered gowns. All paired with tan lace-up platform shoes and ethno-modern jewellery with necklaces and cuffs. Not a stitch of bling. The colours went from deep maroons to subtle reds, black and white, ochre and leaf green.
There was fluidity in the entire production: from the set, which had a large banyan tree, to the poetic introduction to Grassrootsâ€™ cruelty-free and sustainable fashion by actor Dia Mirza, to the clothes themselves. A sentence from Dongreâ€™s press release, â€œthe longest rampâ€”from the heart of Indiaâ€™s villages to the ramp at LFWâ€, connects with the fashion industryâ€™s current road mapâ€”it wants to search for and nurture its roots.
Over the past 18 months, the designer has worked closely with the non-profit Self Employed Womenâ€™s Association (Sewa) in Lucknow and the Sewa Trade Facilitation Centre in Gujarat. So when two-dozen-odd women artisans in Kutchi costumes walked the ramp to take a bow, followed by Dongre and Mirza, they got a standing ovation. It may be a populist way to evoke a response, but it seems to work.
After watching this collection, seeing its artistically shot brochure and visiting Dongreâ€™s new store, Grassroot, at Khar, Mumbai, what stands out is the investment and thought that has gone into packaging a viable plan. The core idea itself is not new, and, regardless of the storeâ€™s ethnic decor, contemporary ware, and black and white photographs, Grassroot must eventually be tested against customer preferences, commercial success and pricing. Sticking to its promise of providing work to craftspeople.
But design is first and foremost a solution. Fashion needs aesthetic solutions too, apart from wearability and affordability. For customers, whether a label achieves this by sustaining craft skills or providing livelihoods is a secondary consideration.
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