For a craftsman in faraway Bhuj and Kutch, the process of making a bandhani is magical. It is to carry forward a languishing tradition whose origins have been lost in the sands of time. Drawing patterns on the cloth, pinching it and holding it in one's teeth, tying the punched portion laboriously in a continuous flow of unbroken thread and finally dyeing it, in the process creating one of the greatest textile embellishments of the country's craft tradition.
A dying art?
Surely there is a clear indication that the craft is dying.. in the world of high-end fashion today. This is the age of digital prints and there is no Indian designer who's not smitten by the digital bug.
But Rahul and Samar Firdos, the designer duo who made their debut at the Lakme Fashion Week last year, are using the technique for their upcoming show at the Rosemount Australian Fashion Week, starting from the April 30 to May 4 in Sydney .
"What's expected the most from Indian designers abroad is 'Indianness'," says Firdos. Their attachment of the craft underlines the fact that they are exposed to the culture of how it's done as they are based in Ahmedabad.
"It's much more than that, we've incorporated the technique because we felt that it's becoming ancient," he adds.
Designers like Ritu Kumar have used the technique for several years. Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla too have kept crafts like chikenkari alive. These designers have also maintained that while India is going global, we need to strengthen our manpower and keep it alive.
"Digital printing is dominating the market, for a matter of fact it's convenient and requires less usage of manpower. One bandhani sari takes a month and half to print, it's really the toughest technique," Firdos says.
Tough but worth it
Keeping the tradition alive isn't all that difficult. After all, it's about using imagination. Nothing today can stop a designer from experimenting. "We've made dresses with bandhani print fabrics. It's important to keep in mind that saris and salwar kameezes won't work, nor will trousers and skirts.
Dresses and tunics are our best bets," informs Firdos. They've used vibrant to muted hues, in western cuts and whorls that suit contemporary tastes.
The humble designer feels happy about the fact that the craft involved 300-400 craftsmen for their collection. "That's the beauty of it. Because it requires intensive work, it employs lakhs of people who are the backbone of our industry," ends Firdos.