Ministry meets fashion meets Northeast at Wills India week


Ministry meets fashion meets Northeast at Wills India week

New Delhi : Catwalk trendiness fondly mingled with Northeastern art and craft on the opening day of the Spring-Summer 2013 edition of the Wills India Fashion Week (WIFW) at Delhi’s Pragati Maidan on Saturday.

The first such show by a mainstream designer to be sponsored by the Ministry of Textiles (MoT), Atsu Sekhose’s collection on the ramp was significant on many fronts. The most important being that the Fashion Design Council of India’s (FDCI) populist fashion event is no longer seen as a breezy cocktail space by the MoT, which formerly found it unfit to showcase the country’s textile legacy.

Despite being co-dependent — as textiles are the biggest feed into Indian fashion collections — the two sides had remained politely (and politically) aloof till now. Working in collaboration was an unrealised vision. That has changed.

What makes the change even more remarkable is that the region the MoT has chosen to support is the Northeast. Most of “mainland” India, as Northeast designers emphasise, is ignorant about the nuances of their crafts. What better platform to showcase it than a hyped fashion event that attracts the media like a magnet.

“The provision of marketing is an important element in a support strategy and is equalled in importance only by the design input. The Northeast lacks both these inputs, as a result of which its handloom sector languishes,” said Kiran Dinghra, Secretary (Textiles), Government of India.

Fashion week organisers and MoT officials have marked out an entire section of stalls for ready-to-wear, saris, accessories and jewellery from the Northeast, curated by Mala Barua. Six designers are displayed here, with wares made from local materials like Eri and Muga silk, loom woven mekhlas and tribal fabrics interpreted in Western silhouettes, apart from water hyacinth bags, handmade paper made from rhinoceros poo.

Next in line is established Northeast designers training aspiring designers from the region and working with weavers etc to help them make their skills, fabrics and textiles more contemporary, said Sunil Sethi, the FDCI President.

Sekhose’s runway collection used tribal colours, motifs and translated the weaves from his native Nagaland and other neighbouring states in a sophisticated, global, non-ethnic way.

Since it is the first formal relationship between mainstream fashion and the MoT, few are willing to predict whether it would survive the dragging challenges of bureaucracy and fashion’s impatient frenzy. “If this is a one off, we would be extremely disappointed. Design and marketing requires sustained effort. We would like to get more space on the FDCI platform, take it beyond to other platforms of equal buyer attraction, attract other equally known designers, and make a programme out of this initiative that we can grow and support for the 12th Plan,” said Dhingra.

With Inputs from Somya Lakhani