The Fabric of Life

Anjali Jhangiani
Monday, 20 August 2018

Fashion designer Rajesh Pratap Singh explains the philosophy behind working with Tencel, an eco-friendly fibre

When people talk about being ‘environment-friendly’ in the fashion industry, it can mean many things — it can be about zero wastage or using natural products, decreasing carbon footprint or making a bio-degradable product, and so on. Doing his bit to introduce innovative measures to make fashion more ‘green’ and less harmful to the environment, Rajesh Pratap Singh is working with Tencel, a sustainable fibre brand by The Lenzing Group, which has its headquarters in the Austrian town of Lenzing. 

The noted fashion designer has decided to come up with an innovative line of menswear and womenswear using weaves made with this fibre, which will be showcased at Lakme Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2018. The first looks of the collection were recently revealed at a preview hosted in Mumbai.

“We believe sustainability has to be a part of all manufacturing processes. Any industry which doesn’t take sustainability into account is obsolete in my view. It’s not a trend but a desperate need of the hour. Sustainability in fashion means using processes that are nature friendly and do not pollute the environment. It also means good practices in all aspects of the business including the human component. Upcycling, zero waste and basic efficiency, biodegradability, durability, classic design are all manifestations of it. This can come both from the craft/handloom sector as well as the mechanised industry. In fact, we feel that whilst we can learn a lot of lessons from our handicraft and handloom sector, the real sustainability may well come from cutting edge technology,” says Singh, adding, “Tencel fabric has a beautiful drape, is extremely versatile and is undeniably sustainable.” 

The Tencel fibres are actually Lyocell fibres that are extracted from natural raw wood which comes from socially and environmentally responsible forests in Europe. Lyocell is a type of rayon consisting of cellulose fibre which is made from bleached wood pulp using a special method called dry jet-wet spinning. Tencel is manufactured with an innovative ‘closed loop production system’ which received the European Award for the Environment from the European Union.

“We have always lived by the philosophy that a timeless product is the first step to sustainability. If you can wear a style that survives the changing fashion seasons, you are already partaking in a process of minimising consumption and therefore treading lightly on nature. It also makes the piece you own that much more precious. However, we feel that sustainability is beyond fashion. Sustainable fashion is a trendy term used right now. It may have some short-term benefit to certain brands, but we still believe this has to become part of the infrastructure of an organisation. Materials like Tencel that are inherently sustainable by construct provide the real solutions. It is something that can be easily mass produced and mass consumed. It is not only for the elite,” says he. 

Singh has worked with a variety of Tencel yarns and fabrics to successfully engage iconic Indian crafts such as Chanderi, Benarasi, Jamdani and more, for his latest collection. But are these fabrics suitable for the tropical climate of India? 

The designer answers, “It is lightweight, all-weather, has great texture and drape, and has been tested to be biodegradable in six weeks. It is also an intrinsically soft and comfortable fabric against the skin. Just like cotton, it can be used in several ways,” adding, “This collection experiments with Tencel yarn being used both on handlooms as well as in hi-tech mills. Both have their unique properties and it’s interesting to see how the yarn works in each scenario. Tencel has a lustre and great properties of drape and could be a good material to work with in the handloom woven space. We have tried several traditional weaving techniques using Tencel yarn in this collection and found it very resilient and adaptable.”

Word is that his collection is a modern and contemporary twist to the Indian interpretation of Tencel weaves with “surprising and intelligent details.” Describing his collection, Singh says, “This collection uses an amalgamation of traditional handloom craft, embroidery, hand block print, Ikat, Leheriya tie dye, Jamdani and traditional brocade jala weaving techniques. It also adapts some of the prints of the iconic William Morris under an ongoing project. This collection, in effect, experiments with Tencel in a wide variety of genres.”

He adds, “The silhouettes are basically a modern interpretation of traditional costumes from times gone by as well as from the dance costumes repertoire of India. Handpainted trainers accessorise the show. White will always find a place in our offering among a medley of colours including gold and indigo.”

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