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MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Sathya Saran  (click here to know more about this blogger)

Normally, I avoid graduation fashion shows. They tend to be long, and often noisy. The collections range from the truly inspired and well finished to the purely imitative long black gowns, and of course there are the speeches and the prize giving rituals which drag the evening on and on. So at the risk of missing out on being witness to the unveiling of some real talent, I opt gracefully out.

The reason I attended the NIFT Mumbai passing out fashion show was because it had a theme that was different. The South Central Zone Cultural Centre, Nagpur, had joined hands with NIFT to help create collections that could find new ways of expression for the traditional crafts of Maharashtra, some of which were dying out due to lack of the oxygen of sustainability in the form of ideas, demand and financial benefit.  The idea, stemming from SCZCC Director Dr. Piyush had been happily accepted by NIFT Mumbai Director Nilima Rani Singh, and in a series of short meetings the idea of students using the crafts in their passing out collections was mooted. Singh had already got Hemant Trevedi as mentor for the show this year, so it was a question of convincing him to enthuse the students about the idea of finding new ways to vitalise the crafts. Of course, some of the 24 students had their own ideas that they were loathe to give up, but others took to the experiment happily, encouraged further by the knowledge that there were special prizes for the best among the craft-based creations.

And so it was that once the mandatory flurry of speeches and felicitation formalities was done with, and the collections rolled out, there was much that pleased the eye and gladdened the heart. Here, then, was no token nod to the craft idea, but something more serious, more laudable. 

Handpainted Warli designs on sky blue denim skirts and jackets, the dazzlingly colourful Banjara embroidery on long flowing shrugs and bags, Kolhapuri leather adapted to strappy, heeled sandals and roomy satchels, Paithani sleeveless jackets for men, and swirling skirts and ensembles in kosa silk proved that out of the box thinking could have rich rewards. Even those who chose not to explore the Maharashtra craft route, found themselves exploring new ways with the crafts of Mizoram, the geometric embellishments of the Egyptians or even Madhubani paintings which showed up as discs placed on pleasantly flowing silhouettes. Perhaps the high point for me of these amazing adaptations was the peppy line of resort wear that used the rag-woven durrie pieces that are created by the weavers of Latur to add colour and embellishment to the collection. 

Bringing his years of expertise as a designer and choreographer to the fore, Hemant Trevedi ensured that not a seam was crooked, or a stitch out of place. There were no hanging threads, and none of the super bling that one sees even in some of the shows at fashion week. The carefully selected backdrop projections and offbeat music (which could have played a few decibels lower) for each collection added pizzaz. And perhaps knowing that nothing pushes a cause as seriously as celebrity endorsement, 'power' men and women, all Maharashtrians, including Ashutosh Gowarikar, Sandip Sapaarkar, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Sonali Kulkarni, Renuka Shahane, Bharat Dabholkar, Harsha Bhogale, Dr. Sandesh Mayekar and Dr Shivani followed Amruta Fadnavis [who also happens to be the wife of the Chief Minister of Maharashtra besides being an achiever in her own right], in a power walk that raised the ante for Paithani weaves, Himroo shawls, and all the other crafts. Shobhaa De added her might to the effort by an introduction to the power walk in which she shared the fact that she always gets Paithani nine yard saris woven for her daughter's weddings. A sentence that could kick off a trend! 

Here at last was a graduation show that went beyond mere self indulgence and worked towards a goal. Such collaborations between cultural and creative centres could be the way to a new creative impetus among the next generation of designers. And might inspire the more established designers to take on themselves ways of ensuring the crafts of their regions find new ways of expression and the craftsmen new encouragement to continue creating their crafts to gainful ends. If that happens, this experiment between SCZCC and NIFT, Mumbai would have made a valuable contribution to Indian fashion. More than that, it would be a definite step to creating fashion that is Indian in spirit and can win the much sought of space for Indian fashion designers in the international fashion arena.
 

Sathya Saran, NIFT
 
Sathya Saran, NIFT
 
Sathya Saran, NIFT
 
Sathya Saran, NIFT
 
Sathya Saran, NIFT
 
04-JUNE-2016
 
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