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Fashion
March 01, 2019

Jean Mapping: Chandni Sareen Of The Ikat Story

Text by Rushmika Banerjee. Photographed by Uma Damle. Styling by Akanksha Pandey. Make-Up and Hair by Suraj Tiwari. Models: Tashi Pedy, Sumaya Hazarika, Both at Anima Creative Management

Denim is a ubiquitous fabric whose history can be traced along the length and breadth of the globe. In the last of a five part series, Verve speaks to Chandni Sareen who specialises in upcycled garments for women combining vintage denim with ikat.

“I started my label in 2015 with ikat as I have grown up surrounded by the fabric. My maternal grandmother’s house was in Bareilly, and she had these beautiful ikat bedspreads, table runners, curtains all around the house. Growing up with a textile tradition that is so rich in texture and heritage, it instantly became my fabric of choice. It was always easy to access and I made clothes out of my mother’s bedsheets, saris and throws. I never really purchased the fabric when I first started designing my own clothes.

I’m really fond of the intricate weaving technique for ikat and I wanted to keep this beautiful art alive through my creations. Since I identify with a free-spirited, bohemian aesthetic, I try and combine ikat with different fabrics. It started with cotton, then moved to khadi and now denim. Next, I plan to experiment with bandhani. I aim to put out two collections every year and I make around 30 pieces for each line. I work with upcycled denim that I have collected during my travels to Europe and France.

I really like layering when styling myself, so over the years I have accumulated a lot of denim jackets, dresses, vests, and eventually felt that I had enough to dabble in using the material in my designs. I have a special affinity for vintage jeans as I love the feel of the fabric after it has aged for so many years. I don’t think we could find a pair of Levi’s like we used to back in the day. I like the texture of the yarn and in terms of longevity, a pair of jeans could last forever. When sourcing, I check the count and the thickness of the fabric. I don’t pick the flimsy jeans as they’re already worn out and won’t last long.

All my pieces are bespoke. This aspect was really important for me and it is my brand’s USP as well. No two pieces are alike, and since everything is created out of vintage denim pieces, they each differ in terms of wash, fit and feel.

I stock my pieces in Mumbai, Goa and Sri Lanka. The customers in Goa and Sri Lanka are similar in the way they visualise a fabric. In the West, people understand the value of authentic, vintage items and handwoven, homegrown weaves. In India, people are slowly getting there and with the increasing influence of street style, youth here are gradually understanding the importance of developing a personal style that defines who they are.

When I started with ikat, a lot of brands were already working with it. As I began to infuse the textile with fresh energy through youthful shapes and cuts, it found favour with the younger crowd. When people think of purchasing jeans, the first brands that come to mind are the ones that they trust, so it was bit of a challenge for me to break into a market where brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Levi’s already had a strong foothold. The biggest achievement for me was, after almost three years, that people can recognise an Ikat Story when they spot one.

Today, people are more aware of the environmental consequences of manufacturing clothing, and therefore are receptive to the idea of recycling and to upcycled denim. With ikat too, whatever waste I have in my workshop is used up — I make chokers, flip-flops, bags and pouches. Sustainability is more than just a practice for designers to adopt, it’s a lifestyle choice.”

Read part 4 here

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