Assam at Cannes

Amrita Prasad
Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Sanjukta Dutta, who will be dressing up Miss Grande Region 2018 Jessie Schroeder for Cannes 2018 red carpet in Assamese silk, talks about how she is empowering the state handloom

She’s known for blending traditional weaves and prints of different geographies into one unique customised piece of clothing. And she’s also greatly known for her creative mekhela-chadar — the traditional clothing of Assamese women. 

Sanjukta Dutta left her government job to give wings to her dreams, devoting most of her time and energy towards ‘reviving’ and ‘redesigning’ the traditional Assamese attire and helping it retain its relevance and attractiveness for today’s discerning urban consumer. 

Through her label Sanjukta’s Studio she not only makes Assamese handloom appealing but also supports artisans and craftsmen to continue the legacy of the weave and keep the artisans’ livelihood alive. 

Now, Dutta is all set to dress up Miss Grande Region 2018, Jessie Schroeder, for Cannes 2018 red carpet in Indian handloom Assamese silk. As part of Narendra Modi’s Make in India initiative, the rich Indian handloom and weaves of artisans of Assam will be showcased at Cannes by the designer on May 18 at the prestigious film festival. Here’s chatting up Dutta:

How did you get this opportunity and what has been your experience of styling Jessie Schroeder? 
I have been working very hard towards the revival of Assamese silk and taking this rare Indian handloom to international platforms to further promote it. I have been very lucky to have received this opportunity and represent India and style a global celebrity in Indian fabric. It has been very exciting till now. I have interacted with Jessie a couple of times to understand her personality and preferences. The gown we have designed is a perfect amalgamation of rich Indian handloom and Western silhouettes with a reflection of Jessie’s personal style.
 
What fabrics, patterns, cuts, colours, silhouettes have you used in the dress? 
We have designed a beautiful gown with a fitted bodice and a voluminous skirt which makes for a perfect red carpet look. While the silhouette is elaborate we have kept the embroidery very minimal.

What is the significance of the motifs used in the design?
The motifs have been specially handcrafted with a strong significance to the culture of North East India. The golden motifs represent the agriculture prop of North-East India called jaapi, which is the traditional hat used by the farmers and is a sign of honour usually presented to the guests. The fabric used is prominently Assamese silk and both the fabric and the motifs have been handwoven by our expert weavers. The beautiful black gown is like a dream woven by the rural artisans of Assam. 

How did you create a balance between traditional Assamese weave and the Western cut to give it a global appeal? 
The beauty of Assamese silk is that it looks very rich and elegant and can be adapted into any silhouette. Considering that Jessie is a global celebrity we wanted to create a very international look in Indian handloom to showcase how it is not only meant for traditional garments but look equally beautiful in Western silhouettes.  
 
What was your biggest challenge  while designing the outfit?
Creating the right balance between the great opportunity we received of styling a global celebrity and our initiative of taking Indian handlooms and work of our weavers to an international platform like Cannes was very challenging. We had to ensure that we don’t get carried away by the opportunity but also serve our objective of promoting Indian handlooms. We are very proud that it is one of those rare occasions when Indian handlooms have been adapted in a completely Western silhouette. 
 
You are also showcasing traditional weaves and handlooms at 71st Cannes Film Festival. What makes Indian weaves fascinating to the West?  
Indian handlooms are very rich and the fact that they have been handwoven manually makes it very attractive. The science behind the weaving and wafting process is beautiful. Each weaver puts in hard work and many hours to create fabric which is superior in quality. Besides, different handlooms showcase the culture of different regions. This entire process makes it very fascinating. 

Do you think styling a global celebrity will help empower Assamese weavers and artisans? 
Yes. It gives them a sense of confidence and pride when they see their work being showcased on such a prestigious platform like Cannes.

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