The Love of weaves and Sari
For designer Rema Kumar, her love story with weaves goes back about 20 years. Originally from Chennai, now settled in Delhi, she is currently in Chennai showcasing her latest collection “For the Love of Sari” at Chamiers from Feb 5th to 7th.
In conversation with Ritz, we find out about Rema’s inspirations, favourite colour palette and how saris serve her as a blank canvas. Excerpts.
Tell us about your collection – “For the love of sari”.
In a nutshell, it’s a celebration and coming together of collaborating with weavers and craftsmen of different parts of India over the past year – Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. We are celebrating the six yards for its simplicity, elegant and ethnic best.
What color palette does this collection have?
The Uttarakhand and Andhra cottons that include Khadi come in bright, vibrant shades of yellow, green, blue, red, orange and pink. The Tussar silks range from cream and pastels to mute and bright shades. While the Batik range is in the natural shades of red, indigo and black. Lastly, the Kalamkari Kota silks follow the natural vegetable shades of muted earth colours.
Apart from saris, are there any other kinds of materials being showcased at the exhibition?
There is a range of ready-to-wear blouses in different styles and sizes which are fusions of different cotton fabrics I have been working with and are mostly one-of-a-kind, with no repeats. These can be teamed with any sari to create an exclusive style statement. There is a limited range of unstitched Ajrakh printed blouse pieces with dori work as well. And for those who are not looking to buy sari or blouse, there are stoles, dupattas, kurtis and fabric co-ordinates.
Could you elaborate or explain in a little more in detail about what you mean when you say “Surface detailing has been further done to enhance the look of some of the weaves for formal occasions by clever positioning of Kalamkari, Kantha, Pattiwork, Brocades, Handblocks, Shibori, Bandini and Batik.”
Many a time, when the saris reach me from the looms, they serve as blank canvases for me. Since I have been working with craftsmen specializing in different ethnic crafts, these are then sent for surface detailing – which results in fusion of crafts and weaves from different states together in one collection – like Chanderi from M.P. with Patti ka Kaam from Aligarh, U.P. or Batik/Shibori/Bandini from Bhuj, Gujarat, Kota silk from Rajasthan with Kalamkari handblock prints from Machilipatnam, A.P., Tussar silks woven in Chhattisgarh embellished with Kantha from Bengal or Kalamkari Handpainting from Kalahasti, A.P., and further enhanced with brocade trims from Benares and so on.
Where do you get the inspiration from when you come up with a new collection?
Most often, inspiration comes from the weavers or craft cluster that I am working with. Sometimes it’s the technique and sometimes it’s the play of colours. I am my happiest best in any remote weaver’s village. For me sitting with the weavers, trying out permutations and combinations of different yarns, trying all kinds of exciting new possibilities on the loom; listening to their life stories, sharing their meals etc and absorbing a life that is so simple and different from my own, is like meditation.
What is your favourite material to work with?
Cotton and Silk are my favourite yarns.
How has the experience been working with women weavers in Uttarakand and other places?
They are very hard working and enthusiastic about innovations with designs and yarns. This makes this group, one of my top favorites among all the other clusters I have been working with. In fact, the entire idea of introducing cotton yarns to them was an initiative to give them continuous orders as silk and wool products are very seasonal. After many trial and error episodes over the years, finally we have been able to arrive at a count and drape that lends the sari an exclusive texture and fall. Weaving dupattas will follow suit.