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Fashion
February 26, 2019

Jean Mapping: Diksha Khanna

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 second of a 5 part series, Verve speaks to the designer who specialises in distressed denim saris made from handwoven and scrap fabric.

Diksha Khanna

“Denim is an extremely versatile fabric and I’ve always been captivated by it. It’s more than just a fabric — it’s a lifestyle. I got my first pair of jeans when I was 15. They were Levi’s in an ice blue shade. I loved the fit, the fabric, the top stitch on the jeans. I did my own customisations, experimentations and ripping — what fascinated me was that they just got better with every wash and aged really well.

I only started using denim in my collections in the last few seasons. We source all our fabric directly from weavers based out of Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. So, I either work with handwoven khadi denim fabric or scrap denim, which I pick up from factories and then we do our required testing, which includes light to heavy distressing in some pieces. The production of denim has an adverse effect on our environment and that was partly the reason for my sourcing of scrap denim. When I say we are an ethical brand, the core values of sustainability have to be followed.

In our last collection we had hand-embellished the fabric with needle-point embroidery. This season we are experimenting with different kinds of yarn, for example, we are trying to incorporate zari into our denim designs. It’s still in the trial phase — we don’t know if it will work, but if it does, the end product will be an exciting innovation. Our aesthetic is based on combining contrasting elements like giving structure to fluid elements. It revolves around the co-existence of opposing forces, which harmoniously come together and work as a unified element. Similarly, when I started experimenting with denim, I wanted to add fluidity to the rigid fabric. Hence, I distressed the topmost layer of the fabric and noted what happened to the yarn and weight or what happened after the first wash. While washing, we also made sure not to use any chemicals. It was just washed normally and the result was amazing. The denim sari that come out of this was made from lightweight denim — the skirt (of the sari) had a higher thread count because we wanted it to have some structure and the pallu was heavily distressed. Then it started to fall in a certain way. The threads (in the pallu) were entangled and it required a lot of cleaning and quality checks after every wash. There’s a French brand, Marithé + François Girbaud, which specialises in denim and they really caught my attention because of the different ways in which they use technology. Ten years ago, they were the first brand to use laser and light to distress fabric. It was called ‘watt wash,’ and today, all the big brands follow the same technique.

I don’t see any other fabric that still retains so much strength after being distressed. When I started working with denim, I did not think of its commercial viability. I had the concept to create an amazing denim sari and it just went from one step to another. So many people have appreciated our experiments, but denim is still considered a fabric for the masses in India and hasn’t entered into the luxury or designer segment yet. However, times are changing and people are willing to pay for something slightly more avant-garde. We have definitely seen the shift with Indian designers starting to work with handloom denim. The future is exciting and it would be revolutionary if India can create an exclusive Indo-denim and put it on a global stage.”

Read part 1 here

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