Of Style And Motion
The bustling, palm fringed neighbourhood of Fort Kochi is a treasure trove waiting to be unravelled. Forward thinking artists and craftsmen blend together in perfect harmony with spice merchants, calm water bodies, quaint cafes, Jewish homes and established art galleries. This crown jewel of Kerala is home to one such established indigenous designer Joe Ikerath. Gifted with a unique design philosophy and creative flair, his label is represented by the quintessential dragonfly. From curating clothing for the differently abled to dressing celebrities like Arundhati Roy, his designs represent all thats unique and out-of-the-box in today’s fashion world
An alumni of Corpus Christi, Kottayam, in the wonderful buildings designed by the architect Laurie Baker, under Mary Roy’s philosophy of education sparked by an early awareness of his environment and sustainability laid foundation to what eventually followed.
Bestowed with the award for Best Design Collection from NIFT in 1994 and having worked for three years in Delhi, the question of sustainability and clothes came back to him. This paved the way for Joe Ikareth to take the journey back home to start his own studio with a hands on approach to design.
The theory of maximum utility ensured each fabric is put to its best and optimal use during production, hence leaving minimum spaces for wastage. Ikerath’s brand rests on the core philosophy of the three Rs – Reuse Redesign and Re-energise – which he mindfully applies to a conceptual collection ‘Things to carry to wonderland’ showcased at his store in Mattancherry.
Creating costumes for dance, Ikareth realises the importance of integrating movement into clothing. He approaches movement with élan and brings about a feeling of freedom because his garments effortlessly celebrate creativity and uniqueness with equal aplomb.
Inspiration takes a new meaning as much by poetry as by the flow of lines through each of his creations. It is interesting to note that Ikareth’s talent and penchant for creativity is not only restricted to clothing but seamlessly extends towards creating music, sound and projections for his shows and for dance companies too!
At his store you will discover the beauty and simplicity of bias-cut cotton dresses, structured tunics, corset tops and quirky skirt-trousers. Ikareth extensively pays homage to the indigenous fabrics of Kerala together with traditional techniques to bring alive each of his creations; each reflective of the land and echoing his signature design.
He makes a limited number of garments using traditional techniques of embroidery and wood print that are representative of exclusivity and sheer diversity. Notable highlights in the recent past include ‘Varadakshina’ – homage to artist Namboodiri using dancers from ‘The Floor’, for the Goodkarma Foundation.
Ikareth’s contemporary creations lean towards traditional Kerala breath easy fabrics including his very first creation. His classic cotton handloom collection pays ode to this creamy cool fabric resulting in a balance between practicality and style.
When Ikareth first set base in Kerala, people viewed his clothing as being too avant-garde and it took him many years to find a certain sense of acceptance. The emergence of Art Biennale in Fort Kochi served as an interesting catalyst for Ikareth. He began showcasing Fashionart performances with a group of creative people and over the past few years the exchange has been uplifting. “With the recent debut of design spaces, galleries and restaurants lending further character to Fort Kochi, the journey ahead is bound to be positive”, says Ikareth.
The most recent of his global contributions includes participation at the NORDEN –‘Nordic Independent Living Challenge’. Ikareth says the exchange of ideas with a diverse group of people from caretakers of disabled people to tech geeks, university students, designers, differently abled people and city council members from the Scandinavian capitals all coming together to work on the ‘Challenges of Independent Living’. He firmly believes that in India too, with support from the government and CSR bodies we can develop new ideas and solutions for DAP (differently abled persons) by bringing together multi-disciplinary groups.
It is a feast to the eyes to see how Ikerath’s 11 year old daughter Tilotama, who has restrictive arm moments since her birth, manages her daily activities independently. With Ikareth at the helm of affairs on clothing and Murielle his wife a movement based therapist from France. inspiration has many dimensions. Murielle is his muse and she helps him understand the extent of movement that each of his creations offer. Thanks to this clothes have a functional meaning with effortless style in Tilotama’s wardrobe. Buttons and zips are cleverly replaced with magnets and velcro, while asymmetric cuts take centre stage, together with ergonomically designed and personalised clothing exclusive to the wearer. The approach is to focus from the evident body disproportions amongst the differently abled wearer. Such designs allow for immense flexibility for the differently abled to perform daily tasks like using the washroom or dressing with no dependence.
Natural and relevant this has led to the birth of ‘MOVE ABLITY’ a new range of clothing curated by Ikerath, designed exclusively for the differently abled to develop their confidence and self esteem
The Ikeraths have transformed the situation into a happy and exciting innovation that is practical, thoughtful and liberating in every way. What began as a sensitive start to a need is now bound to be a revolution and a meaningful one at that!
Tilotama is bundle of energy and this also comes about with her being fiercely independent and adept at managing her daily chores or beautifully swaying with grace as she dances with her mother unperturbed by her arms.
Ikerath’s next big efforts are invested towards sourcing NGO’s and corporates to subsidise the designs so that it can be affordable for economically constrained families.
Ikareth doesn’t believe in separating work from leisure because he believes they coexist. “It is important for me to bring creativity into different aspects of my life; from engaging the kids with music or cooking” exclaims Ikareth.
This gifted artist admires the works of Rei Kawakubo, Hussein Chalayan, Alexander McQueen, Iris Van Herpen, Issey Miyake from the global fashion fraternity. Back home renowned Indian novelist, activist and global citizen Arundhati Roy is his muse and one of his most loyal clients.