When India looks to the West for inspiration, the West looks to us more and more often. That is exactly the case with fashion in India now with runways across the world going gaga with Indian prints and textiles and Hollywood divas and power ladies like Michelle Obama donning ensembles designed by Indians.
Exactly in such a situation, designer Anuradha Ramam, known for her contemporary Ikat and Kantha saris, travelled to San Francisco in the US to show off her collection of handwoven saris, Kantha saris embedded with mirror work, handblocked stoles which are woven and embroidered and tunics.
The objective was to build a new audience for Indian handloom. ‘When India looks to the West for fashion, the West looks at India for inspiration, says Ramam. ‘It’s an eternal exchange of ideas and inspiration,’ she adds.
A blend of Western cuts and Indian sensibilities is the bottom line. The exchange of ideas and energy is great for fashion and helps in constant innovation, feels Ramam.
Weaves and traditional handlooms have always been her forte. So does she feel Indian textiles are being revived now after being neglected for decades when the country swung to synthetics? Ramam agrees there was a phase when there was a complete loss of confidence and pride which resulted in mindless aping of the West. ‘But now there has been a drastic change in our attitude and thinking. There is definitely a surge and a renewal of interest,’ says the designer whose creations are worn by the likes of Brinda Karat and Kiron Kher.
Ramam presented her creations to the Western world ‘in the original form, not as a copy in the form of a print’. ‘I want the West to see and feel the fabric for what it is... the way it drapes, the way it breathes, the entire experience,’ she says.
Her new collection, Summer Silhouettes, is all about handcrafted weaves, prints and embroideries. She has used colours as a form of therapy. There are fresh handblock printed saris for everyday wear, zari appliques for formalwear, kotas, Ikkat skirts and tops, dresses and jackets, dupattas and stoles in a riot of colours.
There are also long kurtas in Ikkat with embroidery patches, anarkalis in multi-patching effect, appliques and more.
The designer also has plans to popularise weaves and textiles among the younger generation. She wants the younger generation to come forward and take interest in them. The challenge, she says, is to constantly innovate for a newer palette. ‘The tradition of weaving can only be kept alive by providing them with constant work and support. Gen-next has a vital role to play in this,’ says Ramam who supports over 350 women weavers in West Bengal and 200 weavers in Andhra Pradesh who are working for her.