Weaving traditions

Amrita Prasad
Thursday, 23 August 2018

Designer Sanjukta Dutta, who is showcasing her collection Abor, talks about working with women weavers of Assam and her attempt to revive Indian weaves

From being a technocrat to a handloom revivalist, Sanjukta Dutta has had quite an interesting journey. Her love for Assam’s handloom industry has resulted in her name being associated with mekhela chador, a traditional outfit worn by women in Assam. Dutta, who hails from Assam, has been working with the weavers there to produce Assamese Silk, in order to provide them with a livelihood. In fact, her collection Abor, which she will be showcasing at the ongoing Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai, is dedicated to the strong and determined women weavers of Assam. 

Here’s chatting her up: 
What does Abor mean and what does your collection comprise?
Abor means independent. It is dedicated to the strong and determined women weavers of Assam. The collection comprises ethnic and Indo-Western wear, and boasts of a mélange of styles and silhouettes including mekhela chadors, sarees, lehengas, skirts, crop tops and beautiful Western gown. The silhouette is created from the choicest of Assamese silk, which is produced by getting cocoons of a particular lineage of worms found only in a single village in Assam. While the entire collection is very festive, it is inspired by my travel to different parts of India. The colour palette is a riot of gorgeous hues ranging from orange, blue and yellow to the more traditional colours like red, black and muga.

How did you plan the collection?
As a designer label, we have been working with the women weavers of Assam for a long time. It is they who weave the Assamese Silk, which we design in different silhouettes. These women are not only talented but also are extremely independent and strong. The collection is dedicated to these women of Abor tribe, who have fought against all odds to earn a living for themselves and run their families.

Tell us about your work in reviving the Assamese Silk in modern silhouettes and mekhela chador.
Indian handlooms and textiles are a part of our rich cultural heritage. It is very important that we preserve them and pass them on to our future generations to learn and celebrate. Further they help in encouraging local art and provide employment to the talented artisans. In my initial days in this field, I realised that faster fashion cycles and an increase in power looms have led to a lot of the weavers turning away from the handicraft industry and looking for other employment options. To keep the handlooms alive and motivate artisans back into the craft, apart from giving them salary, we also cover aspects like education, medical needs, and lodging of their families. A large portion of the profit earned is reinvested, to motivate more artisans to return to their core industry. 

Are the weavers open to embracing change?
These weavers, like us, are looking for opportunities to grow, to learn and to embrace what will help them improve their output. The experience of working with them has been very beautiful. It is amazing to see how talented they are and how well they know their craft. 

You recently collaborated with Yash Raj Films for the logo design of Sui Dhaaga...
It’s an honour to be amongst the chosen few to design the logo of Sui Dhaaga which is dedicated to the craftsmen of India. I am representing the North East India and the logo we have designed reflects the beautiful colours of our region. 

Do you think films like Sui Dhaaga will help highlight the issues of artisans?
In Sui Dhaaga, Varun Dhawan plays a tailor, and Anushka Sharma an embroiderer. The film is a salute to the self-reliant workforce of the country — artisans, craftsmen, weavers and the grassroots level contributors to India’s indigenous arts and crafts industry. It will definitely bring attention to this industry and showcase the talent that India has.

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