For this tete-a-tete series of the ACEDGE Summer UNschool, Purbita Samanta from Ethos interviewed Fashion and Textile designer, Anubhuti Beohar. Anubhuti is the Founder, Director and Designer of Anubhuti Weaving and Moulding Art (AWAMA), a brand that promotes ethnic textiles in contemporary clothing. She is also the head design consultant of Mrignayani – which has 32 craft clusters in Madhya Pradesh. She is a graduate of NIFT Mumbai and hails from Bhopal.
Know our mentor for the Textile, Fashion and Spaces Spotlight lecture a little more.
P: So Ms. Beohar, you are now the head consultant of Mrignayani. How would you like to describe your journey as a Fashion Designer and from where did it start?
A: My journey as a designer started when I was studying in NIFT and my late mentor teacher Mrs. Rebeca Philip, took me to a National Handloom Expo. She was supposed to give a lecture on the forecast of fashion and colour, forecast design elements but her problem was that her mother tongue was Malayali and she could not commute well in Hindi. So, me coming from Madhya Pradesh, she asked me to translate everything from Malayali to Hindi to these weavers. In that Expo, more than 100 weavers had participated from different states. We went there and delivered that lecture and for the first time I got to know that there is a huge gap in between the craft industry and fashion industry and there are many problems which need to be addressed.
Today we see all these terminologies handmade, hand crafted, handlooms… But I am talking about 2005 or 2006 and then all these things were not prevalent. So, I had an interaction with a carpet weaver from Kashmir and he said that he started making a carpet based on floral designs but by the time he launched that product in the market, the trend had changed to geometric style. The entire product was out of trend. So, this was my beginning of a journey at the crafts field and then I thought that I should probably do something for them in this field. So that’s how it started and after that I came back from Bombay to Bhopal in 2008 and I joined Mrignayani.
It’s been 11 years now and the journey has been fantastic. I got an opportunity to work on crafts like rot iron, bell metal, bamboo, Chanderi, Maheshwari, Bagh. I had just read a paragraph on so many of them in NIFT. This was because in India and in our college we are taught more about western styles and less about our own crafts. This is something I learnt by being and working in this industry and so far have had a great time.
P: The materials you have explored seem really interesting. Now since you focus on Ethical fashion in your practice, what was your inspiration behind taking up Ethical Fashion? What motivated you in exploring the indigenous style of fashion?
A: As I said before, what inspired me was that initial conference with my mentor and the gap between fashion and craft. I joined Mrignayani and I used to go to all these craft clusters. So, the time I am talking about is almost early 2008 or 2009 when power loom was very active and handloom was not very much in the scene. A Chanderi weaver was not able to afford a Chanderi saree for his daughter. The conditions were that bad and there was constant migration. People were switching on to farming or some other profession and looms were getting shut. So, we thought why was this happening?
Chanderi became extremely infamous for being torn on the folds of the sarees. So, we introduced the merchandised yarn and the concept of fair wages. I am glad that we are living in a time where you have fashion revolution and ethical fashion as the hashtags of today’s social media. But I am talking about a time, a decade before, doing all these things. So, my inspiration on how to do such things was that I always wanted to do social work and I used to think that how my understanding for learning fashion would complement my work. I am fortunate and blessed to get such an opportunity. It is said that ‘charity and business cannot go hand-in-hand’. But I was being paid to do social work where people create design, create market and bridge the gap between craft and the upcoming trends of market.
P: What was your first assignment as a Fashion Designer? Was it difficult for you to establish your place in this industry when you took up this unique style of fashion?
A: I’ll answer the second question first. So it was very difficult. When I was studying in college, I used to already work on Khadi, Kota, Chanderi, Silk, etc. But people used to question as to why I am not exploring other materials like polyester or any other manmade textiles and why I want to do ethnic silhouettes only. They said that as a student I should be more experimental and exploratory. The criticisms started from there.
When I joined Mrignayani, many of my relatives would say why I am not working with any fancy designer, fashion shows or export houses. They questioned me on why I am being like a socialist and going to these villages to work at the grass root level. So those were the societal pressures. Second was that I was working in government departments. It was very hard for me to explain my bosses the concept of design, the concept of fashion forecast, how designers work, the concept board, the brainstorming, planning six months or 1 year before. Those were my initial challenges.
My first assignment was indeed quite challenging. They thought that she is a new kid and is working on these expensive textiles, so don’t give her new fabric. They told me that these are our torn sarees. ‘They have defects in them and they are not being sold. They are the leftovers and you create products out of that’. So my first assignment was recycling and I designed samples for ‘Messe Frankfurt Heimtextil’ Textile Exhibition which was held in Bombay. Two of my products were selected and we got an export order for that. So, I did home furnishings with Chanderi and Maheshwari as well.
P: What is your vision on architecture and fashion being a cross disciplinary education and what are your views on the correlation between these two disciplines?
A: I think it’s an extremely interesting question. I read somewhere that our second skin is the clothes we wear and the third skin of a human person is the spaces in which they are living. Both Architecture and Fashion work around a human body and the human necessity. So the correlation is extremely strong and both work on the concept of design. Form, proportion, colour, structure and material- it is so similar. Imagine that a garment is being made and you can’t expect it to sell by itself. You need a space, a certain frame where it will be kept. You need a certain ramp where it will be displayed amongst the audience. The entire ambience has to be created and everything has to be correlated-the music and everything. Nothing stands in isolation I believe and it’s not just a pretty fabric or a silhouette or embroidery which makes a garment. This space and how it is displayed or where it is kept is equally important. And similarly, when we create a house, it is not just bricks and walls or the floor. Every element of design is important.
P: What do you think about the online/digital platform for learning? How much will the digital platform be helpful to our learners?
A: It is so interesting that today’s generation is getting such a platform. Imagine that you are sitting in a different city and I am sitting in a different city and we are interacting right now. A digital platform can have so many ethnicities, so many cultures and so many age groups together and it doesn’t matter what field I come from or you come from. But if you feel like learning a certain topic or if I feel like sharing my experiences from our within our comfort zones and space, without travelling or spending money to go and reach out at another level, so many of us can come together. This is an excellent opportunity. Imagine, learning in a classroom within four walls and with a limited audience. But here you can connect with so many people and share their experiences and all of us can learn from each other.
P: Talking about the Course method and its appraisals, what shall the enrollers expect from this course? How would you like to motivate our enrollers?
A: As we say that we are designers and solving problems. So, I would like to talk about the differences of art for an artist and a designer and how architects are also designers. You must have seen how Zaha Hadid has worked so much and has also clubbed fashion and architecture. I will be showing examples like works of some tremendous designers who have collaborated with architects, photographers, dancers and sculptors and created successful products. They are not just garments or textiles. There is more to it. Imagine somebody wearing a silk saree. Now until and unless you give the floor with respect to the saree or the wall with respect to the saree, how do you expect it to do justice to the product? Every space, every human, every person has his style. So that is how the course will talk about and how your product can be a complete product if you give the essence of space and club the essence of the space with it.
P: How will the enrollers be assessed through this course? What will be the diverse kinds of assignments and exercise that the student will part take in?
A: What I expect the students to do is first learn about all these collaborations, the inter-disciplinary projects which very big designers have already done. So they need to understand and research on those designers and they will get a free hand to design an entire range of collections on paper based on the previous works done by these designers and architects. So what they can do is that if they get inspired by a building, they can create a range of garments inspired by that. Or if they get inspired by a fashion product, they can create an environment or a space based on that. There will be another assignment where they can have just one product, say, an environment and use a textile to enhance it and vice-versa. So the exercise will be to understand how architecture and fashion is co-dependent and being different also they still have a foundation which is the concept of design and turning the basic necessities into art.
P: What is your anticipations from this course for yourself and the learners?
A: What I want to establish here is let’s not think that fashion is just clothes. Fashion is something which we all live in just like the car that we drive, the phone we use or the clothes we wear. Everything is fashion. So the house we live in or the building we go in is also not away from that. I want to establish an understanding among the learners regarding this and how a certain idea of a space, learning the nuances of proportion, form, colours, textures and materials can help them make a successful design. So this is what I expect and I am extremely excited to come across learners from various disciplines and not just design because I have been taking classes of designers and students coming from accessories or textile or apparel design. It will be interesting for me to understand the ideas of architecture students also.
P: Thank you Ms. Beohar, I am sure your insights have made many learners curious and they are as excited as you are for the session during the fashion and textile week at ACEDGE.
Thank you, we will see you soon.
Dear readers, please join us by enrolling for the ACEDGE Summer UNschool beginning on 12th May. We have special offers in store if you register before 1st May. So hurry up!!