Fashion designer, Paromita Banerjee is on an expedition to revive the lost craft of hand-woven fabrics

Paromita Banerjee

Paromita Banerjee

Her work echoes pastoral grace; there is a certain sense of ethnic chaos in her clothes blended tastefully with modern cuts and silhouettes. Designer Paromita Banerjee through her work brings forth a celebration of the long lost charm of Indian weavers – their stories, the rich cultural potpourri and its vivid symbolism that reflects dramatically in every inch of her outfits.

What inspired your collection Safed Rang part 2?

I always had a fetish for whites; spotless whites – pristine white uniforms from our school days, baba’s starched white kurta, new notebooks with their typical smell and crisp white sheets, all had a mystical effect on me while growing up. To start with a collection moulded in whites and gold was a perfect way to revisit these cherished memories. The collection revisits classics, starting from whites, moving over to black and white and finally bursting out into lots of colour.

Tell us about the cuts and fabrics you incorporated in your pieces…

We have revisited the archetypes through this collection. Classic silhouettes like the kurta, bandgala, ghera angarakha and pajamas that Indian men wear, are all part of our silhouette story. We have used hand-woven Mangalgiri from the South in weaves of kora -gold, classic black and white checks and bright checks. As far as the fabric is concerned malkha khadi is what we have been using for the past few seasons and of course khadi from Bengal and bits of block prints by revisiting Mughal motifs like the Rose paisleys.

Spring/Summer '14

Spring/Summer ’14

What is your design philosophy?

My philosophy is all about making simple, effective pieces in a variety of textiles, textures and techniques that stand the test of time and become classics in your wardrobe.

What new techniques and materials are you using?

We always try and incorporate new ways of working with handlooms by keeping the context of the craft constant and by introducing new looks each season. We never try to change the inherent nature of each craft or weave. We never loose the essence of the tradition. In the case of this collection, we have worked with the traditional weaves of Mangalgiri where we have woven gold zari into the weaves and come up with a range of kora -gold and black-white-gold checks. This time we have used woven gold as part of one of our first stories. We have also been using Malkha khadi for the past two seasons now. This time the Malkha comes in the form of colour blocks in palazzo pants, sarees, etc.

Any suggestions for budding designers?

The fashion scene looks very glamorous and rosy from outside but in effect it is a lot of hard work and dedication. There are no fixed working hours. The creative process is not time bound. Be a part of this only if you believe in it and you have a passion for making good clothes.

What does fashion mean to you?

Fashion to me is a way of life. It is not just about good clothes. It is about being who you are and being proud of it.

How has the Indian fashion industry shaped your outlook towards fashion over the years?

The Indian fashion industry is a lot about the glamorous and most of what I see around me caters to the wedding season or other such similar occasions. But everyday is not about weddings; I find a huge gap in the market where people want to look good without having to look like they are going for a wedding. For us and our brand it was always about following and supporting the weaver’s story and telling our story through the weaves – that you can make simple and effective clothes that support what India is all about and still make people look and feel good. It does not necessarily have to be all about the bling.

Spring/Summer '14

Spring/Summer ’14

What’s in the pipeline for your fans?

More focus on weaves that we have not yet worked on. Lots of golden bling in the form of a slightly ornate wedding collection (we have been itching to do gold for a while now!) and of course a range of footwear in recycled scraps and leftover chindis from our past collections.

Any fashion brands that you really adore?

I really admire Fabindia for the way they have been a part of our everyday existence. Previously it was just clothes, then it was furniture and now it has sprawled across various substantial segments like beauty products, organic food, etc. I like their presence around. I can really associate myself with their aesthetic values.

How unconventional designs are perceived amongst Indian audience?

The average Indian audience does not always go in for unconventional or experimental designs. They are afraid to try something new; I have felt it is primarily because they are afraid of what people will say. Even if some of them might want to try something new or different they are always wondering if they will look good in it. Fashion and clothes is all about knowing yourself and how you can carry it with confidence.

You are into eco-friendly production. However, a lot of people complain that natural fabrics have become expensive today. What is your take on that?

Natural fabrics are expensive simply because there are not many takers for it. I think we ourselves are to be blamed if prices are high. The weaver clusters are dying down because people like you and me are moving onto newer and more artificial and synthetic options – options sourced from the west and cheaper alternatives like synthetics. You are paying not just for the fabric per meter but for the skills of the weaver who weaves the fabric. Think of this as buying an item, which is eternal and classic and will last you for years to come; perhaps then you will not feel the pinch. Since there are such limited number of weavers and weaver communities who are practicing their craft, the prices for their existing products are becoming high and I would blame us for this occurrence.

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