A fashion designer and his dream of making 'World's Largest Mask'

2020 is almost over. While it will be difficult to get over the trying times, the year has also left with varied life lessons. And, to ending the year on a positive note, Delhi-based fashion designer, Manish Tripathi, is planning create a Guinness World Record with his ‘World’s Largest Mask’ project. The mask, measuring 100 sqm, is an amalgamation of fabrics from 10 states, and the efforts of thousands of women from across India working in the textile and crafts sector.

While on the surface it might look as a motive to make a Record (the current world’s largest mask (72 sqm long) record is by Suadi Arabia), but behind the mask lie a sea of emotions that altered Manish’s life forever. Taking us down memory lane, Manish says, “I have been working with a lot of weavers from across India. When the pandemic hit, I got a call from these people expressing concerns over making ends meet during the lockdown. Then the migrants’ exodus happened, which made me want to help these people. They were travelling back home, walking hundreds of kilometres (some barefoot, without maskor food)... it moved me in ways I cannot define. In a bid to help in whatever way I could, I visited my factory, made masks and distributed them among the needy with the help of local police and district magistrate.”

Fashion designer, Manish Tripathi
Fashion designer, Manish Tripathi

But, the life-altering event occurred when, while during one of his distribution drives, a labourer asked if he would give him work. After spending restless hours pondering over the incident and an urge to help these people, Tripathi started the Sheher Se Gaon Tak initiative. The aim was to train the people from village and provide them with the necessary skills so that they can earn their livelihood and become atmanirbhar in the true sense. “They say when your intentions are good, everything automatically falls in place. And that’s exactly what happened with Sheher Se Gaon Tak initiative. I met a lot of people who supported me in my endeavour,” Manish says.

Armed with a plan and necessary permissions to move about during the lockdown, Tripathi’s initiative started to take shape. “I travelled to villages in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Uttarakhand, etc. And, with the help of local self-help groups like Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM) and Deen dayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM), trained women weavers to make masks. It was my way of empowering them,” Manish adds, while stating he noticed it was the women who were financially supporting their families during the lockdown. Soon, they also started making alternate products like bags, pouches, pencils, pencil toppers, and more.

It was a two-way exchange Manish says — he trained the women, but he also got a chance to learn a lot from them. But, when the news about the vaccine came out, Manish didn’t want these women to get disheartened. In a bid to motivate them and market their talent and efforts, he thought of making the world’s largest mask.

Manish has found support for his endeavour from Uttar Pradesh Khadi and Village Industries Board. Khadi has provided Manish with fabrics from 75 districts as a symbol of their support. The masks, made by women weavers, are being assembled at Manish’s Delhi factory. Once the mask is complete, it will be floated on a hot air balloon in the first week of January 2021. Later, the mask will be disintegrated and converted into alternate products.

A fashion designer and his dream of making 'World's Largest Mask'

“It’s not just about making the world’s largest mask. It’s a message to follow COVID-19 protocols, it’s a tribute to Indian women, and it’s also about branding and positioning Khadi as a global brand. And, it will also give an ownership right of sorts over the mask to the women who are putting in efforts in making it a reality,” Manish says.

The mask is also an amalgamation of Indian rich textile and craft traditions. Manish informs the mask will reflect textile forms from different states of India — from Maharashtra’s classic paithani to Punjab’s vibrant pulkhari to Lucknow’s chikankari, and more.

“India has a rich cultural heritage, and living craft, which we don’t value. My aim is to spread awareness about the varied textiles India has to offer. Sustainable fashion needs to go beyond a trend or lockdown buzzword. And, as a designer I want my fashion to have a purpose, and each design a cause,” Manish, a NIFT graduate and former national advisor to the Ministry of Textiles for India Handloom Brand, signs off.

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