Designer Shruti Sancheti built her label by resolutely working to revive traditional Indian weaves—without sacrificing contemporary design for sustainability. Here, she confesses about her love affair with textiles.
"As they say, you can take a person out of Kolkata but you can never take Kolkata out of the person. Growing up in the hub of art, culture and craft, I was always fascinated by the rich legacy of Indian textiles and weaves and seeing the exquisite craftsmanship of West Bengal like jamdani, baluchari of Murshidabad, tangail, Purulia cotton, Vishnupur silk and much more with rich influences from neighbouring states of Jharkhand, Assam and Orissa shaped up my deep love for woven fabrics at a very early age. I was mesmerised by the understated luxury and restrained opulence of these diverse rich textiles and ever since these magnificent weaves have shaped my design sensibility. After studying fashion design, my love for textiles made me do another diploma in textile designing to understand the intricacies of fabrics.
Thus, when I launched my first collection in 2010, it was an amalgamation of many weaves like the Mundu weave of Kerala, Maheshwari and Chanderi of Madhya Pradesh, Bhagalpuri silk and crafts like bagh prints of Indore, bhagru and sanganeri of Jaipur. It was called legacy and got a good response. Later, I became the face of the Maharashtra state handloom board and worked extensively with weavers from Vidharbha.We together tried a lot to revive forgotten local weaves like ruiphool, karvatkat, narli, jyot, rasta, nagpur checks etc along with reviving khadi, tussar and kosa silk. Ever since the inception of textile day, I showcased some craft or weave for many seasons continuously. From working with clusters of Pochampalli in Andhra Pradesh to weavers in Karnataka and West Bengal, I have worked with many sectors of weavers and it was an enriching experience. Their skills are parallel to none and it was a learning process. Later I worked with Reinvent Benares movement, an initiative by the existing government, and have been working on it ever since. With the #iwearhandloom movement I have been granted the Maharashtra weaving centre and I am looking forward to exploring and developing some exciting weaves.
However, it is a tough decision to work with weaves inspite of its exquisiteness because there are lot of problems. Firstly the weavers face a lot of difficulty in terms of infrastructure, poor yarns, old looms etc and it is a challenge to overcome all of this, motivate them and push them to deliver. Secondly, clients are not ready for handlooms as it was years ago; they want contemporary designs, weightless fabric, au courant colour combinations, placements and motifs. So we have to introduce better thread counts, work with more relevant colour and motifs and churn out global designs with an Indian soul. Thirdly, inspite of all of this, handlooms are fragile, costly and many don't understand the restrained elegance of these textiles so it takes a lot more convincing power to promote them. However, I feel, if one keeps the textile luxurious and designs contemporary, then there is no issue. I also strongly feel India is one of the few countries which has retained its weaving tradition and the world is looking towards India, so it is imperative that Indian designers encash on their legacy of weaves and textiles rather than blindly aping the west."
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