Tug on the thread of harmony

Tug on the thread of harmony

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Photograph by Vinit Bhatt

Makar Sankranti, the celebration of a robust harvest and the changing of harsh winters to warmer days, has been celebrated in India for the longest time. It is not surprising, therefore, that in an agrarian country like ours, it transcends regional preferences and is celebrated all over in one form or the other.
 
Gujarat, especially Surat, is famous for flying humongous numbers of kites on this day that can render the sky almost invisible.
 
Surat is also famous for humongous production of synthetic fiber, producing 90% of Polyester that is used in the country.
 
These actualities of this city have a similitude of the Thread – the glass laced, sharp as knife, thread on the kite’s spool and forming the very warp and weft of fast fashion – the cheap, synthetic, non-degradable, mass produced polyester thread.
 
Archetypical of the condition of modern Indian society at large, Surat renders itself to be the milieu of our story – the incessant tugging at the delicate thread of our harmonious existence with nature.
 
This story endeavors to weave its thread through the labyrinth of the perilous sport of kite-flying, sew its way through the damaged fabric of fast fashion and eventually cut itself free and soar in the evening sky as a beacon of hope in the form of thousands and thousands of twinkling, glowing paper lanterns. Join in.

Tug on the thread of harmony

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Garments: White Champa – a label that offers modern,sustainable and impeccably tailored garments in traditional textiles.

MODEL

PHOTOGRAPHY

Gracious and gorgeous Reha Sukheja

Madly talented Vinit Bhatt

Hair and make-up

Paper birds

Fairy like Megha Kothari

Persistent Tejashree Bhanawala

The morning of Makar Sankranti brings with it an eerie sense of foreboding. The sky remains vacant like a canvas fearfully waiting, as if, for the kites to pierce it, perforate it while the callous wind adds to the merriment of the kite flyers.

There are a few kite enthusiasts who are testing the quality of the kites and their prowess that will be called upon to menacingly take on the skies in the evening.

Then there are also those gentle souls who are fearful about the fate of the innocent birds, the unsuspecting and highly unwarranted victims of the trenchant spool of thread.

Tug on the thread of harmony

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Garments: Padmaja

MODEL

PHOTOGRAPHY

Gracious and gorgeous Reha Sukheja

Madly talented Vinit Bhatt

Hair and make-up

Fairy like Megha Kothari

 
The thread that weaves our modern life has been going through its own transformative journey. There were days when it was born from a pure cotton boll, nurtured by sunshine and water, enriched by the natural fertility of the soil and gently coaxed into its thread form by tractable hands working the ‘Charkha’ – our spinning wheel – in a meditative space. The final garment was indulged with, by the wearer with a sense of respect towards it and was kept well, gently hand-washed, shade dried, lovingly worn and caringly mended.
 
As times changed, so did our lifestyle and the gossamer like thread, which could have been woven into a fairy’s wings, had to cope with the new expectation akin to that of Batman’s cape and be indestructible in every situation. We have no time to ‘separate hand wash’ the garment plus it has to face the harsh detergents to take off the pollution fraught grime.Then comes the rough and tumble of the machine wash. There can be no gentle natural colours, for they tend to bleed. Also, only toxic chemicals can survive the harsh sunrays of open drying or mass, mechanic drying of an automatic drier and it should not require ironing, naturally for we have no time.
 
The kind thread has transmogrified into an indestructible demon with a dangerous manufacturing process and dubious side effects to its wearabilty. The polyester.

Tug on the thread of harmony

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Garments: Padmaja

MODEL

PHOTOGRAPHY

Gracious and gorgeous Reha Sukheja

Madly talented Vinit Bhatt

Hair and make-up

Fairy like Megha Kothari

A face off between the hulk like polyester thread and the fairy like natural thread is inevitable. Synthetic threads are exposing their menace with harmful emissions during manufacture, toxic water waste with scary monomers and solvents, non-biodegradable afterlife and perhaps the carcinogenic kick to the wearer. The natural threads, on the other hand are receiving a helping hand by many talented and bright designers who are finding unique ways to bring back the natural threads into our wardrobes with garments that are fashionably fetching.

Here, for example, the bolero jacket has been made with tiny scraps of pin tucked hand woven cotton fabric by Padmaja Krishnan under her project called ‘slow.useless.’ Deeply appreciative of its value, at the end of a working day, even the tiniest scraps are collected at her studio. These scraps are patched, stitched, re-stitched to magically create new textures and surfaces.The process is slow, the raw material is useless –but the end product is simply priceless.

The tunic is made of wild silk with ‘Kaantha’ handwork. As the thread wanders over the silk canvas, in the hands of a whimsical embroiderer, it leaves behind steps that are sometimes wide and sometimes close, creating an organic pattern and universal appeal.

In one frame, the two threads are juxtaposed, one in this polyester thread making factory and the other on the garment, so harmonious in appearance and yet so treacherously disparate in their aftereffect.

Tug on the thread of harmony

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Upcycled garments by brilliant designers of Doodlage.
Lovingly made stole with discarded fabric is by amazing Karishma Shahani Khan for her label [Ka] [Sha]
Model: Beautiful Reha Sukheja
Photography: Vinit Bhatt
Hair and makeup: Megha Kothari

I suppose,akin to comic book character ‘The Flash’, alacrity is the biggest strength of Fast Fashion. The ridiculously reduced production cycle of fast fashion labels has ensured that a teenager (in many cases a grown woman, sadly) will not wait for three months for the slouchy, cutoff t – shirt that Rihanna wore yesterday. The designers/ copiers of the labelkeep an eye out for these sightings with more severe alertness than that of a stock analyst in a bull market and inform the production team. The production team, profoundly missing a ‘life-line’ to provide any clue on this matter, takes a shot in the dark. If the customer wants that t-shirt at all, she wants it now. Production team has to be ready with the logistics on both possible scenarios – that the garment is a success and becomes a staple for pretty mall rats or is a dismal flop and remains unseen on the racks, taking up expensive square footage of the store. The possibility of a dress worn by Taylor Swift the very next day, becoming the afore mentioned staple and the Riri T-shirt turning out to be a dud is scary and not to be left to chance at any cost.
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Tug on the thread of harmony

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Garment courtesy: Debashri Samanta
Model: Reha Sukheja
Photography: Vinit Bhatt
Hair&makeup: Megha Kothari

It all started when I read about the power of ‘shopping hauls’ conducted by Pretty Young Bloggers which can jump start the sales of a sluggishly moving ‘play – suit’ for a fun fashion label. Upon viewing one such, on a blog’s YouTube connect, I was completely hooked. The Pretty Young Blogger would talk with breathless enthusiasm about her huge bagful of super cheap, super trendy garments that I, lounging on my bed and devouring a bowlful of ‘bhujia’, would get excited about her amazing purchases. As if on cue, the links for all her garment pieces were enumerated, so with a quick click, I was connected to those garments and really, within five minutes, I could order on-line, pay pittance for them with zero delivery charges and within 3 to 4 days, the garments were delivered. Soon this became a regular pastime as, for the price that was cheaper than movie tickets, popcorn and coffee, I had a bagful of cool clothes! The additional excitement of opening the bags and laying my eyes on the garment for the very first time was nothing short of Santa given gifts. If anything was awry, well no problem, I could exchange it or get a refund, no questions asked.
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Tug on the thread of harmony

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The process of evolution is never easy. For creating a path through thorny wilderness, when a gleaming road is easy to take, all that is required is shushing the whispers of consciousness and quelling of empathy. If one has chosen self for such enhancement plan, well, I can just deeply sympathise, fully aware of the brutal toughness of the same.

A while back, a certain consciousness creeped in on me with the matter of food, after which all proverbial hell broke loose. It seemed as the universe was conspiring against my well meaning diet plans by throwing in my path a bowl of Daal Makhni (my favourite!) with a swirling vortex of cream to suck me in and I’m sad to report that sucked in, I did.

My journey with conscious fashion has been pretty much the same. Up until the time fashion consciousness dawned on me, I never realised how desirable a certain fast fashion label t-shirt with ‘I❤Blogging’ or pyjama set that anointed the wearer ‘Blog Queen’, can be. The more I tried to rise above it, reminding myself of the pitfalls of such cheap clothes, well, the more I wanted these. I could get no rest till one day I bought it, on-line, much to my later chagrin.

But in situations such as these, I always look towards my friends for inspiration and one of them, certainly, is Purvi Doshi. This talented designer makes beautiful hand embroidery adorned garments and upon a personal impetus for betterment of her line, has decided to go full scale into sustainable garments. Her adoring customers and industry contemporaries are happily surprised at the stunning beauty of her every subsequent line and lap it up with gusto. I am one of the blessed ones who was in the loop on the details of her journey and I could appreciate the hardships involved with her decision. With deciding to find more sustainable options of silk, Purvi braved the Indian sensibility of equating luxurious fabric with silk and her choice to work with natural dyes made it tough for her to recreate her beloved jewel tones. But forging ahead she is, one gentle choice followed by the limiting fashion scope of that decision followed by another improved choice.

The recognition of her journey has come at a national and international level including one from the very hub of fast fashion producing countries – Bangladesh, where she was appreciated and applauded for her contribution to slow, kind fashion.

She reminds me that consciousness of any kind, garments included, is a perpetual process deeply embedded in the human spirit, open to the possibility of being unearthed by prodding of any kind. As she moves from finding a ‘gentler option’ to her recently discovered ‘gentle option’, she re-works the ropes, realigns and adjusts, mindful of the fact that every being has a right to live and thrive on this planet and we surely can try a bit to participate in that kindness of spirit.

I’m excessively proud, Purvi, of your optimism under the worst excesses of human consumerism – the fashion industry and your admirable determination to face your future, your label’s future and the planet’s future with curious eye for loving, considerate betterment.

I too, will try to be a real, honest blogger who does not need fast fashion proclamation on a t-shirt, of the same. I will try.

Tug on the thread of harmony

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The biggest strength of fast fashion, I thought, was its freshness. On a ridiculously tiny budget you could emulate a look straight off the runway. Just by quelling the questioning mind on the baffling low cost, a boggling array of garments are available to us to create a look that is unique and attention catching. One could be Kate Moss on a certain day and Kate Middleton the very next. The only thing required was imagination. Or so I thought.

We, in India are still figuring out how to wear fast fashion, untrained as we are in its wasteful ways, being brought up with our mothers and grandmothers who moonlight as the queens of recycling with their saris worn to smithereens, the blouses and petticoats recycled away to oblivion. I remember the saga of one handwoven organza sari that my mother had. It was bought for mom’s B.Ed exam and after a while, it started giving way along the border. Mother quickly added a contrasting piping to strengthen it and re -paired it with a new blouse. It seemed as if she had a new sari, until one day, a baby cousin hugged her with grubby, chocolate smeared hands and it seemed as if it’s life (the sari’s and not the cousin’s) was over. Without much ado, the sari was given for beautiful appliqué work with tulips as the motifs and suddenly the sari was very ‘now’ with ‘Silsila’ and it’s romantic tulip fields as the reigning hit movie. After a while, the appliqué was taken out and the sari was given for hand block printing and two beautiful ‘dupattas’ were made out of it. I suppose I remember this journey with fondness because in every avatar, the sari attracted many compliments, many a times admiration imparted grudgingly.

In my travels to the land of Primark, Forever21 and Joe Fresh, what saddens me is the clone like look of the pretty young things who generally are the ones pushing the boundaries on fashion. If during a stay there, I find them all, more or less, in printed tights, the other time I find them in horizontally striped t shirts and maxis. If it’s the season of cutaways, well, you know that any sweet looking girl would have it somewhere on her ensemble. It is strange then, that fast fashion labels are thriving on the promise of fresh look while profiting from the mass production of insipid, uniform like dresses with dangerous environmental and human consequences. For us in India, choosing to dress in fast fashion labels also is at the irresponsible cost of losing our handwoven heritage and indeed our identifying sartorial style. Are we choosing to break away from the ethereal and defining style of our land to emote the faceless style of Bronx/ Queens/ Janpath/ Piccadilly Circus populace? I am truly flummoxed as to why fast fashion is getting this universal embrace unless, of course, we have resigned to an existence of monotonous, drab dressers.

Beautiful dress by Ka_Sha
On Reha Sukheja.
Photography by Vinit Bhatt
Hair and makeup: Megha Kothari