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TRAIN DREAMS BY SAMANT CHAUHAN

— Samant Chauhan

In the run-up to Samant Chauhan's off-site showcase for Amazon India Fashion Week at the Indian Rail Museum, the designer shares his deep, personal inspiration inspiration behind this collection and photoraphs depicting his memories and its translation into design.

"I remember me as a small child standing for hours on the Choti Pul bridge waiting for the train to disengage itself from the engine. I grew up watching the engines and trains that would go past this small town called Jamalpur. We lived in the railway colony then and because most of my family was in the railways, I remember having said in my interview that if I ever became a fashion designer, I'd design uniforms for the railway staff. Imagine a boy wanting to be on each of the trains that stopped by the little mofussil town. He slept soundly through the nights and dreamed of this one particular train - Brahmaputra Mail. The way the train entered the landscape was like a scene changes in a theatre. He would make imaginary maps, make up landscapes of golden fields. Years later, he finally headed east in the same train and saw the golden fields of Assam, the hills and the rivers and heard the songs.  

He would work with the golden threads of Muga silk, which is on the brink of extinction in Assam.  *

For years, I have worked with Bhagalpuri silk because eventually I wanted to return to the place I grew up in, set up a factory there, and perhaps it is nostalgia but aren't we all trying to return to our childhood when we started to make memories? They were pure. I've always liked trains, their rhythm and the freedom I thought a journey like that would provide by suspending a person in between places as you watch the world go by; the power of observation heightened and worlds would fit in window frames and we recreate the maize and wheat of the landscape the Brahmaputra Mail offered in gold threads. Everything in this collection is memory itself. It is the memory of wanting to go to a place and imagining it, embarking on a journey in your head. Go to the past, or to the future. It is a tribute to imagination, to the mysterious and the familiar, as the train in my head glided past villages, their thatched roofs that looked like caps, pulled over them, the wheat and maize fields that gleamed like they had been made of up a million golden threads, the river I had read about in geography books and had always imagined it to be like a rope binding us all. Over time, I had even started making up meanings of the names of stations and then in time, I could even divide my life with these markers. Delhi was via Patna. The train bore me to many places with so many stories and so many skies and all I ever thought was to paint them on the garments and preserve everything in golden hues. 

At the Railway Museum where we pay a tribute to the Indian Railways that first taught us the beauty of travel and made us unafraid of the unfamiliar because the train had a pace and it eased you into new landscapes, we want to try and make it an experience. Here, I shall tell you my memories woven in Assam with the golden threads. Here, you shall be part of the museum of my memories. We shall try and make it a museum where time itself is transformed and where we go back to our earliest memories of our first train rides. In my case, I remember the train that stopped at Jamalpur and came from the golden land of Assam. An artist can pay homage in his medium. Threads and needles being mine, this is my attempt at creating the landscape of my memories. The journeys have taken me to an imagined past when I saw the arch of the church, the fireplaces in homes that had been built in red brick in typical colonial style... the thing with travel is that it is never linear. It crisscrosses into realms of transferred memory and fantasy land and that's how I imagined the 1,000 men and women who came from Britain to live in that small town with a swimming pool and a theatre. A utopia of remembrance of things that were told to me as stories of people who once lived here. I imagined the wide-brimmed hats, the bold gold buttons on the coats and the coiffures. Of course, the memory was assisted by facts and research but my eye travelled to the past that was before me. So many days I spent imagining my own town's past. When I saw the houses, I imagined who lived here once. I saw the trains and thought — who did they bring here once upon a time? This once-upon-a-time is a beautiful notion. It gives you freedom to dream. Didn't all fairytales begin with this faraway phrase? As a maker of clothes, I put that past into the silhouettes. Therefore, these are my memories transferred on to the silhouettes that we must rescue and resuscitate. Let's have hope once again in the power of memories. I believe in mine. This is my storytelling."

SAMANT CHAUHAN
 
SAMANT CHAUHAN
 
SAMANT CHAUHAN
 
SAMANT CHAUHAN
 
SAMANT CHAUHAN
 
SAMANT CHAUHAN
 
SAMANT CHAUHAN
 
SAMANT CHAUHAN
 
14-MARCH-2017
 
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2010-11-09 00:22:00 THE 'FASHION WEEK' EXPERIENCE