Indian traditional outfits possess their own unique cultural eminence that is acclaimed worldwide. The strength of Indian handloom lies in innovative design, which cannot be replicated by the technologies emerging in the fashion industry. Our attire and garments have their roots lying deep within the glorious history and even the recent trends have their inspirations from ancient India! Fashion trends have been constantly changing since the time of the ‘Bell Bottoms’, style of Retro and Bobby prints. However, when we talk about the handlooms, it epitomizes the lush Indian culture and the proficiency of the skilled Indian weavers. The custom of weaving by hand is a part of the country’s cultural ethos and Handlooms are considered important due to their flexibility and quality innovation. Weavers amalgamate myths, symbols and imagery and give their fabric an alluring dynamism through their expertise.
Earlier, there was a time when wearing handlooms was considered old fashioned. Khadi and other traditional clothing were supposed to be worn by the politicians and activists only. People only occasionally purchased these materials which eventually resulted in their low supply and demand in the handloom textiles. Then, the artisans, deprived of the appreciation or monetary benefits, went towards other profitable professions. Artesian went on choosing other profitable professions. Our Indian Textile industry almost came to a halt and sank deep towards the verge of extinct at that point.
Nonetheless, there are fashion designers who admire the great aesthetics of Indian textiles and have developed exotic designs that lead to the uplifting of Indian clothing trends all around the world. Indo-Western fusion gives a contemporary look and is a highly demanded trend across the globe. Hence, Handloom and handcrafted silk sarees came again in the surge and are currently in vogue, because of our fashion designers using the succession and combination of styles through their innovative variations & creative flair.
Textile minister Smriti Irani’s social media campaign #IWearHandloom has created quite a stir on Twitter with people posting pictures in the traditional outfits, along with the fashion designers using these textiles and bringing this historical fashion trend all over again!
These fashion designers are contributing immensely towards reinventing the Indian heritage inspired clothing trends. Here’s a compilation of brilliant fashion designers relentlessly working to keep the Indian Handlooms vivid and in-style.
- Ritu Kumar
Ritu Kumar is one of the leading designers in the Indian fashion industry and has received the prestigious Padma Shri award. Her designs concentrate on natural fabrics and traditional weaving techniques, inspired by the history and museology. She incorporates vintage designs in her collections and prefers fabrics like silk, cotton, and leather. Kumar’s outfits are stunning in their grace, and intricacy of embroidery. Her clothes replicate the richness of Indian embroidery. She has been credited with opening her own boutique brands such as ‘Ritu Kumar’ and ‘Ri’ along with ‘Label Ritu Kumar’ which runs under the leadership of her son. She is one of the founding members of the All India Artisans and Craft Workers Welfare Association (AIACA) along with four other renowned Indian fashion brands including The Revivalist. She has also worked closely with craftsmen from Odisha to revive the languishing textile craft of Ikat to create the effervescent Ikat Patola!
- Neeta Lulla
Neeta Lulla is a fashion and costume designer who has been a leading fashion stylist since 1985. She has worked as a designer for more than 300 films and is graced with four National Awards. Every outfit she designs is inspired by nature and has indo-western fusion, incorporating Indian hand-woven textiles with modern designs. She prefers to design colourful and ethnic Kurtis as she believes they carry classiness along with vogue and style. She uses quality oriented fabrics like cotton, georgette, chiffon, net, silk, etc, which is evident in her trendsetting designer saris and other such traditional fashion pieces. She has been a part of various big banner projects like Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Jodha Akbar, Mohenjo Daro, and Devdas, amongst others. One of her well-known Paithani collections was exhibited in February 2016 at the Make In India initiative along with the flowing lehengas, long kurtas, jackets, dhoti pants, sarong skirts, all of which were embellished as per the Paithani style.
- David Abraham and Rakesh Thakore
Abraham & Thakore is one of India’s most successful and respected designers having their design label Abraham & Thakore which was established in 1992. In the beginning, their brand was propelled with a handmade collection of scarves and kimonos, in exclusive stores in London and in Europe, with stores like The Conran Shop, Browns, Liberty, Selfridges and Harrods in London and Le Bon Marche in Paris featuring their collections. They prefer using handloom textiles and curate designs blending vibrant Indian themes with a contemporary and international take. Abraham & Thakore designs and produces uniforms and special textile accessories for premium institutional clients – Vistara Airlines, Vana, The Oberoi, Taj Group, Antara, and The Park. Their work has been presented at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in New Delhi and in the Volkart Foundation sponsored exhibition on Khadi.
- Sabyasachi Mukherjee
Sabyasachi is a well-known name that will pop up when you’re thinking of buying Indian wedding attires! He is one of the brilliant fashion designers in India who has reshaped and reinvented traditional Indian outfits with a unique finesse without getting deviated from the cultural heritage and traditions of India. He prefers Gypsies, deserts, antique use of fabrics, textiles, and embroideries and weaves them beautifully into saris, lehengas or salwar kameez, which are his areas of expertise. There isn’t a single Bollywood actress who has not worn a Sabyasachi. Aishwarya Rai, Vidya Balan, Sri Devi, Rani Mukherjee, Deepika Padukone, Bipasha Basu they have all worn a Sabyasachi saris or salwar kurtas. He also took an initiative called ‘Save the Saree’, where he produces hand-woven saris which are made on nonprofit basis and are priced between 2000 to 4000 rupees. The entire remuneration earned goes to the weavers living in Murshidabad. He has also greatly revived the use of Khadi in the world of textiles and fabrics.
- Anita Dongre
Anita Dongre has been the vanguard of fashion for over 20 years no w and has created one of the most successful fashion houses in India. She is dedicated to reviving and empowering the Indian crafts and textiles which led her to launch Grassroot, a sustainable and eco-conscious luxury prêt label. She savours her personal philosophy through conscious efforts as a fashion designer, introducing cruelty-free accessories, thereby rendering fashion with a conscience. Anita was starred on CNN’s ‘Growing India’ series in 2015, showcased across 36 countries. Forbes India, Fortune India, Business Today and Blackbook Magazine consider her among their ’50 Most Powerful Women in Business’ lists. Anita was acknowledged as the women entrepreneur of the year by CMAI in the year 2015 and by Kelvinator Stree Shakti Women Awards in 2014. She has also been honoured by PETA at their PETA Approved Vegan Fashion Awards 2013.
- Rohit Bal
Often referred to as the ‘Indian Master of Fabric and Fantasy’, Rohit Bal has become a recognized brand in the Indian fashion landscape. Rohit Bal has a unique style of designing and he mainly opts for Peacock and lotus motifs when it comes to Indian and traditional costumes. Most of his ensembles exhibit the Indian quintessence replete with a unique style and flair. His designing is mainly inspired by the Mughals and the Gupta Period. He prefers using fabrics like Muslin and Khadi. He was also selected by the Khadi Gram Udyog, the largest handloom textile operation in India, to work with them. He works for big and popular names from the worlds of media, films, corporate and fashion, Uma Thurman, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Pamela Anderson and Anna Kournikova are some of his celebrity clients.
- Wendell Rodricks
Wendell Rodricks is one of the Indian designers possessing an international presence and is also a Padma Shri awardee who has curated his unique garments, incited by Goa, at major fashion events. Wendell has also revived the weaving of the traditional Goan Kunbi Sari in the year 2010, and has initiated a two-year project involving and training weavers in the use of sari looms. Sari lovers like Sonia Gandhi, Sheila Dixit and Pratibha Patil have praised the designer for reviving a dying craft.
He is the first designer from India to be invited to show at the World’s largest garment fair IGEDO in Germany, Dubai Fashion Week, Malaysia Fashion Week, the Paris Pret-a-Porter salon and the world’s biggest organic fair BioFach in Nuremberg, Germany. Rodricks was also invited to the Confederation of Indian Industries to showcase two fashion shows in Bryant Park, New York to celebrate the 60th year of India’s Independence.
- Gaurang Shah
Gaurang Shah is an Indian fashion designer who believes in offering traditional Indian weaves and hand embroidery styles like Parsi, Kashmiri, Chikankari, Kutch, Kasauti on handloom sarees with a contemporary flair. His style of the collection represents a fusion of traditional, craftsmanship and style. His label “Gaurang” highlights styles that use traditional themes inspired by the sculptures of South Indian temples, along with floral and geometrics drawn from nature. The brand symbolises culture and uses the beauty of traditional handlooms and weaves that are created using the Jamdani technique with pure zari.
- Shruti Sancheti
Shruti Sancheti is a fashion designer and senior educationist of Indian origin. She is a designer with a revolutionizing idea of breaking traditional moulds to formulate them in a new concept of design. She is the founder of ‘Pinnacle’, a design house that is known and loved for its modern take on the traditional components of a design.
- Shravan Kumar Ramaswamy
Shravan Kumar is a Hyderabad based designer specializing solely in handlooms and proudly calls himself a ‘Textile Revivalist Artist’. Every year, he organises an event called ‘An Ode to the Weaves and Weavers’ in Hyderabad. He works on the revitalisation of the 16th-century designs and age-old handlooms and has also showcased his collection in New York Fashion Week and Vancouver Fashion Week.
We hope our compilation has helped inspire your love for traditional Indian handlooms. Don’t forget to share your views below.