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IN CONVERSATION WITH MANISH SAKSENA

JASMEEN DUGAL  (click here to know more about this blogger)

Manish Saksena has a wealth of experience in Fashion including Advisor at Tommy Hilfiger and Amazon India; former Product Development Head at Aditya Birla Group; and NIFT alumnus. I had the privilege of watching his showcase at the debut of rajasthan Heritage Week and again this year, where he showcased a line of sarees crafted with Kota Daria seamlessly blended with multiple crafts native to the state. In conversation with him.

 

"Rajasthan Heritage Week has its heart in the right place. The extraordinary skills of weavers and craftsmen needs to be brought to the forefront. The scale was larger and more impactful this year and the event showcased their skill not just on the ramp but for some even in the craft bazaar. The fact that it translated to sales was even better. The shows of Bibi Russel and Vidhi Singhania, where the designer and the craftspeople walked together, were the most glorious. That confluence should be the essence of this event!

 

From the weavers' point of view, recognition is one of the highest motivation but continued engagement with designers and buyers would be an outcome over the years. At this point, I think highlighting the craft itself- with its torch bearers- is a stupendous effort. It provides an opportunity for both designers and consumers to discover the beautiful crafts in newer, regenerated ways. Sustained business would be inevitable. Reminiscing about the event last week, a varied curation of designers was a good starting point. There were some who live and breath handloom and therefore brought it out in its glory and there were some who dealt with it for the first time and reinterpreted it beautifully. This multi-level interaction would provide the right visibility and expansive usage. Keeping the craft worth its traditional value is the right way for it to grow. I personally would call it "luxury" because someone has actually put his heart and soul into it, to create. That, for me, does not necessarily translate to "luxury" pricing. For, in most cases, it 's the brand or the designer who earns the direct benefit of luxury pricing and not necessarily the craftsmen. Increased prices alienates the customer from the craft and the craft becomes "for the few".  An absolute contradiction to growth!

 

Essentially, I am a creator driven by handloom and handcrafted skills. The saree, as a form, is my other drive. I had worked with Kota Doria last year and continued the journey this year. But I wanted to do something different. Last year, I had shown the royal elaborate aspect of the fabric. This year, I tried to use it s a base and then amalgamated it with many crafts of Rajasthan to showcase its flexibility and versatility. Thus came about Kota with Leheriya and then over-printed with blocks. As the colors transformed and the patterns emerged in dual tones on the table, I was certain of a new technique emerging. Similarly, I tried silk kota with dabu in Indigo and then surface block print in high contrast over it. The indigo combined with acid tones gave a very fresh approach to the fabric. I am very sure that this has been the first time ever! In weaves too, I used more tonal thread work vs. the zari overload to drive home the point that Kota can be a great summer boardroom look. I then used block print patchwork and gota patti in blouses to complete the amalgamation. 
 

In silhouettes, however, I try and retain the classic. A slight twist for the ramp is all I succumb to! I used interesting saree drapes to enhance the beauty but in no way wanting to make it modern or a caricature of itself. A saree for me is about elegance and that must never leave it. In terms of fabrics and textures I love to interplay… be it a canvas of colors or a journey from structured to fluid to relief in a single outfit. I truly enjoy the scope for an individual streak that a saree provides. It is about the way it is carried and the way it is coordinated. My favourite looks from this collection were leheriya and indigo worn as a dual saree; Chettinad Mubbagam style in kota; and a grey-cream palette with gold-silver tonal weaves that are subtle and for a discerning eye. On a parting note, business comes on its own. If the input is appealing, the take off is bound to happen. I do want my weavers to get more orders from me; that will be my true success. The reason I continued to engage with Kota in Season 2 is because I felt compelled to work with my weavers who had given me gems last year!

 

Manish Saksena for Rajasthan Heritage Week Season 2
 
Manish Saksena for Rajasthan Heritage Week Season 2
 
11-DECEMBER-2016
 
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