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Hinterland haute couture

These Mumbai-based self-taught designers are taking pains to preserve and promote indigenous fashion.

fashion and trends Updated: Feb 28, 2011 14:12 IST
Rochelle Pinto
Rochelle Pinto
Hindustan Times
Mriga Kapadiya

Would you be crazy enough to move to a different country and live in random villages on a whim? That’s just what friends Mriga Kapadiya and Amrit Kumar of start-up brand Nor Black Nor White decided to do when they quit their lives in Toronto, Canada and moved to Mumbai.

Inspired by a love for Indian textiles and techniques, the self-taught designers decided to pick one region of the country for each collection, and tried to promote and preserve their indigenous craft. Their first stop was Kutch in Gujarat, where they partnered with a local organisation called Kala Raksha to create their Spring/summer 2011 collection. “When we first got there, they thought we were crazy,” Kapadiya laughs.

“They knew we hadn’t grown up in India, so they couldn’t understand what we were doing in the village.” The girls spent two weeks there, and also documented their efforts to serve as archives for their work. Ask them whether they’re planning to turn it into a documentary and she says, “We just wanted to archive this process because it’s sad to see these artforms dying. It was so difficult for us just to find handlooms craftsmen because most people just use power looms now.” Another facet of their work is finding and rejuvenating vintage pieces. A 70-year-old silk bolero that they discovered in Kutch was reworked into a colourful bolero that garnered much appreciation when it was worn by actor Monica Dogra to a promotional event for Dhobi Ghat.

The designers have just wrapped up their Autumn/Winter collection too, which uses elements of Benaras brocade and chikan embroidery from Lucknow.

Luck by chance
“For our first project we just landed up in the village and convinced them to work with us,” explains Kapadiya. “But things weren’t so easy in Benaras because there were many hustlers who were just trying to con us. It took us very long to find the right weavers. For our next collection, we plan to go to south India, and we’ll definitely select the people we want to work with in advance.” While they plan to give fashion weeks a miss, they will soon stock at a new store, Le Mill, in Ballard Estate. Prices range between Rs. 4000- Rs. 10,000.

You can check out their collection on norblacknorwhite.com