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Sustainability may be the buzzword in the fashion industry right now, but designer Rina Singh would rather call her label Eka "ethical". "If you are churning out a collection every six months, how sustainable can things be? For fashion to be honest, we can be very ethical about how we work. I work with the same weavers again and again. I have been exploring a craft and a technique for the past 10 years. Continuing to sustain a craft or a design language that handholds that craft is as important to keeping sustainability alive in todays environment," says the designer.
Singh insists that sustainabilility is a difficult endeavour in contemporary fashion, which works as an industry. "Look at the bi-products of embroidery and block printing -- there is so much of yarn and thread being used, so colour thrown in the environment... I can't call my brand #sustainable. But it is an ethical brand as I always work with natural fibres. And I work keeping sustainability as one of my points to talk about," she says.
Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut jumped into the sustainability debate recently when she made a public appearance wearing a plain cotton saree worth Rs 600. To the social media chatter that followed, the actress said she was happy that a generation which was "over consuming resources" appreciated her promotion of local and inexpensive products.
Singh however, finds it hard to buy Ranaut's gesture. "Kangana Ranaut is earning in crores. Why can't she spend Rs 60,000 or 6,000 for a saree? Because she spends thousands and lakhs of rupees to keep herself the way she looks. There is no need for her to make a statement by wearing a cheaper saree, even though she looks gorgeous in it. But a lot of people are conscious about how they look and they therefore buy clothes that make them appear better. I think that's a fair game. Kangana may have point of view, but I don't agree with it. It's a question of perspectives," she says.
According to Singh, "The more you pay, the more people you support because then I'm able to pay my artisans better. It's a supply chain. We all are aspiring and progressing in life. Why must a designer make something for Rs 600? After all people are shopping both in air-conditioned malls as well as at local bazaars," says Singh.
Singh's Autumn-Winter 2019 collection is inspired by three sisters she met while travelling through Aru Valley in Kashmir. "They were bold, feminine, wild and charming and I made them the protagonists of my collection. I asked myself what kind of clothes would they wear if they were living in our world? The collection that emerged is a fusion of their traditional colours and the kind of silhouettes and shapes that I do," she says.
So there an extravagant use of rich and odd colours with liberal splashes of jewel tones. Burgundy has been combined with red, blue has been used with teal, and navy and bright blue have been used together. There is also a combination of rose colour with burgundy.
Though there an underlying tone of Kashmir in the outfits, Singh points out: "I haven't put Kashmir everywhere in the prints and embroideries. It's a very contemporary version of Kashmir, not essentially the revival of their technique and textile. Your will see minimal use of kalamkari with embroidery, but very minimal, like the Eka way."
Just like with every artist, Singh says her designs change with changes in her imagined narratives. "The experimentation is with the colours, textures and the looks explored. The simplistic and rooted essence of her brand remains the same, season after season. As does the passion to explore Indian techniques," she says.
(Puja Gupta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )