The Knowledge Series Workshops were started during Lakmé Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2012 to celebrate the Indian Textile Day. The workshops featuring eminent experts in the field of crafts textiles and fashion who shared their views with the audience proved so popular that the second round took place during Lakmé Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2012
The first in the Knowledge Series Workshops at Lakmé Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2012 was held on August 5 2012 at Sajala the Source in the Usha Talent Box. It was an enlightening and very informative session with the venue packed with very eager and interested students, designers and media.
The keynote speaker was Jaya Jaitly, President of Dastkari Haat Samiti and the prime mover of India’s crafts people. On the panel were Krishna Mehta, Designer and Creative Director Krishna Mehta and promoter of arts and crafts in India. With her was Wendell Rodricks who has been instrumental in reviving the Kunbi sari of Goa. Completing the panel was Ritu Sethi, Chairperson of the Craft Revival Trust and Editor of the largest online encyclopedia on arts, crafts and textiles.
Presenting an interesting AV, Jaya Jaitly explained the different ways that Indian crafts and textiles can be promoted. “India’s crafts and textiles are well known but this is an area which shows beauty and ugliness of the lives of the crafts people. Our aim is to bring them to a new level. Artisans in Banaras at times do not know where their next day’s meal will come from.”
Ms Jaitly requested students to work in these sectors to uplift it. “We must have a sense of confidence in our heritage and not be standardized. Our culture reveals our identity. It is necessary to understand the cultures of the people.”
Ms Jaitly then related a story of how Thai and Indian craft experts have different techniques of dyeing and how the latter from Kutch had a more natural system. The Akshara Project in Delhi created by Ms Jaitly encouraged artisans and craftsmen to use calligraphy for embroidery, prints and weaves which can send a message in different Indian languages as well as create an unconventional form of craft.
The panelists then joined in with Ritu Sethi emphasizing that in craft there is no boss or master. While Krishna Mehta felt that one has not yet touched the tip of the craft mountain. Wendell Rodricks related his experience with Kerala weavers who need to be promoted and encouraged. “Our country is the only one in the world besides Peru where we wear our clothes still. Our weavers need to be encouraged and promoted and given a more contemporary path to follow,” revealed Wendell.
The second workshop of the day was a discussion with Ritu Sethi Chairperson of the Craft Revival Trust and Editor of the largest online encyclopedia on arts, crafts and textiles who gave an interesting insight into her work.
Ritu Sethi, the famous handloom and Indian handicraft connoisseur presented an informative and in depth workshop about traditional Indian fabrics and textiles – from the art of making them to keeping the relationship between karigars strong so as to promote this beautiful process and to help Indian cultural art grow. The workshop was aimed at influencing design students to use handloom fabrics for they are the young generation, the ones who will bring back this art.
Ritu Sethi spoke of the importance of helping talented karigars out by involving them in design processes; “Why be lesser than you are?” she queried. She went on to say that there needs to be a harmonious balance between design and one’s roots.
She made a note of fashion being a ‘visual tool’, its importance being a giveaway to one’s class, value, ideals or simply where they see themselves. Making note of the fact that India has a handicraft culture dating back 5000 years she pointed out that whether for high end or mass consumption it’s important to stick to the root of why one is using this diverse art. “Original is always better, we are all original (people), aren’t we?” she asked when a student questioned if it’s alright to look for a cheaper alternative.
Speaking on the controversial plagiarism issue, she said if one were to go to a village in Kutch or any other place known for its textile work, one would be surprised or even shocked at the affordability which unfortunately sadly affects the quality of life of the karigars.
Before ending the seminar she then shared information about her website which can be found as the first option on Google when one looks for information on Indian textiles. Her website aims to be the new Wikipedia of Indian handlooms and handicrafts, offering information on karigars, Indian traditional work along with their geographic origin, etc.
Passionate and sincere, Ritu Sethi’s seminar imparted her wisdom with the younger crowd in a fun and knowledgeable way.
The first workshop of the day was an Interactive session with Rta Kapur Chisti author of "Saris: Traditions & Beyond" Rta Kapur Chisti is the founder of Ananda Delhi Textile, an organization devoted to the marriage of organic cotton farming and hand spinning in the production of khadi, the Indian textile championed by Gandhi. Rta Chisti, known for her extensive research into Indian traditional handloom pieces - especially saris, presented a humorous but informative workshop on Sari draping.
She started the workshop off saying, “If fashion is about reinvention then the sari is the ideal garment”, and also introduced her protégé and assistant, Pallavi Varma a textile collaborator who specializes in the art of weaving.
Keeping her talk fresh, Rta Chisti explained that it is the weaves of a sari that stand out before the embellishments followed by prints. “We don’t like to sit on the embellishments,” she said winking, making the audience laugh. The aim of the workshop was to share the magic of this unstitched garment; “Show your assets not your shortcomings,” she said before continuing on to explain the technicality of saris.
She explained that saris have three parts- body, borders and a pallav (end part). Another interesting fact shared by her was that the length of the sari determines the wearer- be it a young girl or an older woman. Going in depth into the size of the borders she explained that the sizes are: 1 inch- the size of one’s eyes, two inches- the size of one’s lips, three inches- the size of a forehead, four inches- crossed fingers, five- the size of closed hands in prayer. She also pointed out that the largest can be nine inches for the maximum inner border.
“We’re going backwards instead of forward. Let’s not compete with China, we’re a democracy,” she said. She also made a note of her own group which produces 40 varieties of tussar silk and 2 of mugha.
“You’d be surprised. It’s of the future not of the past, there’s so much you can do,” she said enthusiastically as she took the audience all over the Indian subcontinent, making note of each city and state, pointing out their traditional specialty and her adaptation of their sari wearing styles to something that is modern yet in touch with Indian roots.