This designer label from Mumbai is re-imagining fashion with Khadi and Batik to converge style and sustainability

Ek Katha, led by Madhumita Nath is incorporating indigenous knowledge of craft in creating designer clothing

Priyanka ChandaniUpdated: Friday, November 11, 2022, 07:36 PM IST
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Over the years, fashion has evolved from conventional to modern, sustainable, zero waste, and slow fashion. While the world saw a drastic boom in modern clothing styles, traditional fabrics remained the core of every designer’s creation. And with the world becoming more conscious about sustainable living and zero waste, designers are looking back to find inspiration for their modern yet elegant craft. One such brand is Ek Katha, A Story, which is building its space in the fashion market with fashionable, wearable, and elevated styles with biodegradable eco-friendly fabrics like Khadi and Batik.

Using organic cotton from Kutch which is rain-fed and does not need irrigation, the label works with artisans based in the same region who hand dye and weave in traditional handlooms. We learn that surfaces of their collections are treated with batik woodblock painting to sustain traditional crafts and livelihood of artisans. Infusing plant-based dyes based on natural ingredients like pomegranate, turmeric, indigo, madder root, and catechu in each collection that the brand roles out, we are told, that every fabric is used to create new and fresh products including jewellery, scarves, bags, and jackets to complete the wardrobe.

We caught up with the founder Madhumita Nath, an alumnus of NID Ahmedabad to talk more about her latest collection, incorporating traditional techniques in modern fashion, sustainability and much more.

Do tell us about your latest collection?

We work on a single collection for the year and add on to the existing collection by introducing small capsules. The whole idea of creating seasonally actually goes against the very grain of sustainability is what we believe. So, this year’s collection is named Reimagined. Sometimes the inspiration springs from the materials that abound me in my studio. And this collection is just that.

What are the fabrics and colours used for this collection?

We used our existing inventory of fabrics and created a resort wear collection: fresh, feminine, replete with bohemian chic, interspersed with quirky Batik prints, some cording and pleating to add character and charm. The colours remind you of the morning sun, wakes you up, refreshes you and instils a calm. Beiges, raw whites, pomegranate red and ivory are what we have to offer for not just the summer but a trans- seasonal look. If French Vintage and rustic Indian cloth had an imagery then this would be it. Reimagined is our way of creating this unique amalgamation.

What was the inspiration behind Ek Katha?

Ek Katha is definitely a reflection of my vision to create while preserving bio diversity which lies at the core. Indigenous crafts and craft systems have always drawn me not only because of the craftsmanship and aesthetics but also how pertinent it is in the present fashion scenario. While looking at creating a fashion brand it was necessary that the sustenance of our crafts and village economy and slow modes of creation are adapted to not only to preserve the social craft structure but also to counter the ills of mechanised production. So, the choices made by me were guided by method and material and how the indigenous knowledge of craft is used to create designer clothing wherein style and sustainability can converge.

Do take us through the product creation mood board.

Processes and materials is what drives the core of each collection. That’s what guides the aesthetics and the smaller themes and colour palletes. The story changes from year to year but our batik prints and material pallete of kota doria, chanderi, silks, organzas, desi cottons and Bengal mulmuls help us narrate the stories. These hold the visual imagery of our products cohesively across collections. The micro themes guide the pallete and the combinations of fabrics and surface techniques and silhouettes. It guides the flow and provides creative direction. And many a times sampling process which is a crucial part of the collection changes the way we had looked at it through sketches and illustrations. What emerges has to be eventually wearable, easy on the body and fashionable as well, which is what we stand for.

How do you ensure sustainability in the collection?

First and foremost, we lower the carbon footprints by using only handloom fabrics. We have chosen handwoven over machine made fabric from the very beginning of the brand journey. Hand dyed in natural or azo free dyes. We use safe biodegradable materials like indigenous regenerative cotton like Kala Cotton from Gujarat which is organic, silks, linen and hemp are our fibre directory to bank on. No polymer based fibres are used in our collections. Our swing tags are also made from handmade paper and fabric labels from cotton. Our packaging comes with left over fabric inventory turned into envelopes to pack the product which is packaged in a corrugated box. Our journey to sustainable practices is ongoing and we are still figuring out a sustainable sewing thread and shipping mailer alternatives which would be perfect for small batch producers. Moreover, we launch one collection in a year. We create pieces in small batches which can be worn for occasions across seasons, whether it’s an evening outing with friends and family or for your holidays. In addition, we upcycle our textile cut offs by turning them into beads, buttons and bags used for packaging and jackets too. As we grow we would look forward to creating newer fabrics out of them by turning them into yarns and getting them woven.

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