Perusing a fabric storage unit is always physically stressful. I have an acute fabric dust allergy, and a storage unit with tons of unwashed fabric sends me into a sneezing frenzy from which I take a full day to recover. Still, I can never refuse the opportunity to go through a supplier’s storage of fabric because I usually discover at least one fabulous piece that I would never have seen otherwise; usually suppliers tend to send swatches of their latest fabrics rather than an old forgotten piece lying in their ‘godown’.
In the last couple of months I’ve been keen on developing ikat fabrics with large motifs, similar to the ikat designs I’ve seen in antique pieces from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. I took a few print outs of images I found online and in encyclopedias and sent them to my supplier, Manasa Ikat Fabrics, in Hyderabad for reference. He said it would be difficult to develop and asked if I could just choose from his own collection. He sent me some swatches, but except for one, I didn’t care too much for the others- they were large motifs but they looked like Indian home furnishings fabric.
During my trip to launch my Monsoon Collection at Daaram in Hyderabad last week, I visited his fabric godown. I found just what I was looking for and more. Here are pictures of Central Asian designs and some others that I really loved; my trip there was definitely worth the clogged sinus.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
For once, hearing multiple opinions about my work has given me clarity and re-affirmed my faith in my original goals. A couple of weekends ago I went to Mumbai and met with fashion boutique owners to get feedback on my collections and design sensibilities. Most of the store owners said they liked my clothes but that it didn't fit in with the rest of the collections in their store. I understand where they are coming from- if someone walked into a high-end store willing to spend upwards of Rs 5000 on a garment, they wouldn’t want something simple looking (no matter how well cut or well tailored). One store owner added that women in Mumbai get put off by cotton!
At first I hid under the shelter of my brand positioning and stereotypes about Mumbai and Delhi (which is that they are into bling and my brand is far from that). Honestly however, there is a lot of creativity out there that has nothing to do with bling in the high-end fashion market. I came back from Mumbai wishing that my clothes were just as creative (rather than safe) and wondering if I should tap into the high-end market to make some money. But the truth of the matter is that Mumbai and Chennai are very different markets, and I am much more excited about designing affordable well-cut clothes made from high-quality handwoven textiles rather than a few high-end pieces. At the same time, I would be lying if I said that making money isn’t starting to become a pressure – hopefully that will change once I earn some!
My trouble and difficulty now lies with being in Chennai and figuring out my initial market here. I’ve talked about this before- how my fabrics appeal to older women who appreciate the textiles of traditional sarees but the cuts and silhouettes appeal to younger women. While I am trying hard to incorporate brighter colours and a good mix of traditional and modern textile designs in my collections, the toughest part is choosing which styles (cuts and silhouettes) to make. I get the feeling that women want something different, but not too different, and figuring out the fine line between Unique and "too different" is a lot tougher than it may seem. The halter dress (Black Orchid from the Monsoon collection) is young in style and many women liked bought it but many also said that it was too dressy and that they don’t have an occasion to wear it to. The sand washed cowl neck tops always do well, but cowl necks have now become a Brass Tacks staple and they are so safe! Snapdragon, one of my personal favourites, has a fitted torso and a wide sleeve and while customers love the fit, they prefer a regular cap sleeve rather than a wide one. What if I had made it with an ordinary cap sleeve though- wouldn’t that have made the top too ordinary?
I’m happy to hear suggestions on how to walk this tightrope, and in the meantime here is a photo of a blue ikat fabric in silk that I bought in Hyderabad to make Black Orchid (in blue).
Drying on my balcony (yes, I washed it myself).
At the store when I bought it.