Free Press Journal

LFW 2018 Day 2: Northeast designers call for material, livelihood schemes


Mumbai: The Northeast designers, who represented the region as a part of 13th edition of Sustainable Fashion Day at the Lakme Fashion Week, raised concerns about the dearth of material, livehood schemes and government support.

Designers Richana Khumanthem (Manipur), Daniel Syiem (Meghalaya), Sonam Dubal (Assam), Arunachal Pradesh’s Jenjum Gadi presented his clothing line with Nagaland’s Exotic Echo Society, Karma Sonam (Sikkim) and Aratrik Dev Varman (Tripura) took part in the initiative yesterday, which was presented by IMG Reliance, with the support of UN in India.

Lamenting the roadblocks in the availability of the raw material in her state, Khumanthem said she had to rework on her entire collection after the yarn she ordered from Delhi did not arrive in time.

“Last year, I had to redo my Autumn-Winter collection because the yarn that I had ordered from Delhi didn’t come to me. It reached me after six months,” she said in her address at the ‘Dialogue on Northeast India: Catalysing Sustainable Fashion in Collaboration with United Nations in India’.

The designer used cotton and silk handlooms made by Meitei community in her collection, the garments of which have great cultural significance.

Khumanthem said that dearth of material in the state needs to be addressed urgently. “Sericulture (silk farming) is a thriving industry in the state and for some reason cotton farming has been overlooked to a great extent,” she added.

Syiem presented his clothing line of handwoven textiles by Ryndia silk artisans from Ri bhoi district of the state.

He said that most of the workers in Meghalaya are women, with a 96-year-old artisan being the oldest “who is passing the tradition to the younger generations through her craft”.

The fabric, rich in thermal and medicinal properties, is called ‘ahimsa silk’ as the material is extracted without causing pain to the worms.

Dubal, who represented Assam through his installation made of Eri silk, cotton weaves made by Sualkuchi community, said the Northeast is the “bridge to the rest of the Asia” and therefore it was time the region was given attention “both as an ecological and a strategic treasure”.

“The craft runs like a river and the collection is not just about the culture, but also about the stories of the people.”

Gadi’s collection showcased textiles by Loinloom artisans from Dimapur.

He said the craft was practised chiefly by women and it needs government support to thrive which can be possible through schemes for the state.

“This doesn’t need much investment as women operate from their homes and it would mean growth in livelihood through tradition for them. They make around three-four thousand rupees per month,” Gadi added.

Varman said bringing the work to the designers should be on their terms. He presented his line with Riahs textiles by Reang tribe from the state as the focus.

“It’s their terms that we need to pay attention to, not ours. This is central to working in the Northeast region.”

The designer, who lives and works from his studio Tilla in Ahmedabad, said less emphasis needs to be given to crafting accessories such as bags, bookmarks, etc as it takes away the essence of the Tripuri designs.

Karma urged the government and UN to help the designers to expand their business through streamlining of policies, material and support.

Her label, Kuzu, specialises in the use of yak wool cotton.

Yuri Afanasive, head of UN India, said the #NORTHEASTMOJO is a step forward even in terms of providing more livelihood in the country by focusing on the region.

“As the UN, this is our first partnership with IMG Reliance and Lakme and we joined hands because textiles and fashion is the second largest employer in India, after agriculture. This especially targets at women and entrepreneurs aiming for a better livelihood,” he told PTI.

“We are honoured to have UN’s support in this cause and going forward we want to not just tell their stories but also get the designers into the main narrative,” said Jaspreet Chandok, Vice President and Head (Fashion), IMG Reliance.

The LFW runs through February 4.

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