Thursday, Sep 24, 2015

After twenty years in the Indian fashion circuit, it was a curious feeling to make my debut, all over again, at the FTL MODA New York Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2016. The Ahimsa Resama collection, however, was a journey as well as a debut for me. Now, when it is done, I am left with a distinct sense of achievement over how it has turned out.

Ahimsa Resama has been inspired by a variety of subjects, not the least of which is the fabric behind it. My work with the Ahimsa Silk or Peace Silk began when officials from the Indian Textile Ministry approached me, among other designers, to work on reviving ancient but dying weaving techniques.

I had heard of Ahimsa Silk, but it was only after getting involved in this project that I understood the many wonderful details that go into the process behind it. During the making of Ahimsa Silk, or the Peace Silk, each cocoon is individually checked to ensure that the moth has escaped before it is spun to silk.

As I delved deeper into this non-violent silk’s amazing world the more I began to realize some severe discrepancies. More than 80 percent of the artisans making and working with Ahimsa Silk are women and their earnings are a meager Rs. 5000-6000 every month, about 75-90 USD. It was not hard to discern that these talented women, given the value and potential for this unique silk around the world, could easily earn Rs. 9000 a month, if not more. It was then that I realized what I needed to do.

With the Make in India campaign fresh in my mind along with the many ways Ahimsa Silk could be best used, I began to sketch out designs that I hoped to submit at the NYFW. While sketching the first drafts of the designs, I began to ponder on the transformation of the tiny pupa into a glorious butterfly which this form of silk encourages. That’s when the epiphany that is the Ahimsa Collection, struck. Not only did I know what the designs needed but I was also clear on my intention of bringing to New York a fabric that is specifically Indian in its nature, but utterly global in its appeal and uses.

The idea here was simple, if people are wearing it in New York, people all around the world will wear it. What better way could there be to promote Ahimsa silk, the Make in India campaign and at the same time help the talented weaver-women earn a higher wage?

The natural color of the silk was the highlight of the collection. The different hues of the fabric, from muted beige to a vibrant brown, are a result of what leaves the pupa usually eats. These natural, earthy shades became the centerpiece of my collection and around these I added subtle, little flourishes to enhance the elegant cuts and flares of the designs. With a little ivory and rose-gold embellishment and a Swarovski sprinkle, the designs began to acquire a life of their own. Staying true to the Make in India campaign I also used the traditionally Indian, rich gold zari thread embroideries to add a gentle shimmer to the fabric.

The day of the showcase finally dawned. New York Fashion Week attracts designers from around the world, and even its most understated fixtures are gala events. The venue this time around was the majestic Vanderbilt Hall at the Grand Central Station, a mounting experience of a lifetime. The NYFW, this year, also made a point to embrace beauty in the many physical shapes it comes in. Models on a wheel chair, physical disabilities and down syndrome graced the runway in a first for NYFW. The Ahimsa Resama garment looked absolutely beautiful on the brilliant Rebekah Marine, who was born without a right forearm.

I had hoped to put forward, at the New York Fashion Week, designs that would amalgamate global silhouettes with ethnic embroideries. An attribute all those that saw the collection recognized and pointed out. Ahimsa Resama, for me, is not just a collection. It represents a journey of discovery that found its highest crest at the Mecca of fashion, FTL MODA New York Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2016.