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April 09, 2019

Manasi Parikh’s Instagram Project Is A Charming Ode To Indian Textiles

Text by Sadaf Shaikh

#100DaysOfClothesILove is the artist’s attempt to be part of Instagram’s #100DayProject and has resulted in a series of illustrations that highlight the country’s diverse weaves through heartfelt stories….

If you were to scroll through @crayon_cruncher‘s Instagram profile, the first few posts would reveal a bunch of illustrations in earthy tones with the subjects clad in gorgeous ensembles. Further research would lead you to discover #100DaysOfClothesILove, artist Manasi Parikh’s project that celebrates indigenous textiles via beautiful illustrations that capture the protagonists through the clothes they love, the work they do or the values they stand for. One of the sketches, for example, shows a woman wearing a dress from Nor Black Nor White because Parikh loved the bold weaves while a more recent one features one of her followers wearing an outfit from Swara, an initiative that provides employment and livelihood opportunities to the tribal women of Dungarpur by empowering them to design sustainable clothing. All the illustrations are uploaded using Instagram’s slider feature which allows you to view the illustration in the first frame and the inspiration behind it in the following one.

She spent her childhood among books and her love for stories made her pursue an education in Animation Film Design from NID, Ahmedabad. Post co-founding an artists’ collective called Bechain Nagri — which makes journals and sketchbooks with illustrative covers — and serving a year-long stint as a lead designer at Chumbak in Bangalore, she went on to study painting and sculpture at an atelier in Barcelona. We chat with Parikh, who now calls Mumbai home, on juggling the artist and entrepreneur life…

How was #100DaysOfClothesILove born?
It all started when I bought myself a brown paper sketchbook and some beautiful earthy colour pencils from Derwent.  Just around then, I’d bought a dress from CROW which I scribbled on the book, instantly falling in love with the result. I’d been eyeing Péro clothes for a long time and since I couldn’t buy them, I began to draw them. #The100DayProject — where you choose a project, do it every day for 100 days and share your process on Instagram — was something that caught my eye and I was enjoying drawing clothes so much, I thought it would be fun to do a 100 of them.

Where did your interest in indigenous fabrics stem from?
My mum studied textile design and although she didn’t pursue it professionally after getting married, I was lucky to be her only patron. I don’t remember buying clothes at all till I was 1o — Ma and I would go fabric shopping and then design my clothes together. She’d cut out the patterns and sew them on the machine while I’d hover around, impatient to strut around in my new clothes. The hours we’d spend at handloom expos, picking out colour schemes and patterns turned out to be an informal education in colour, print and weaves.

The sketches you draw include a vast range of body types. Are they inspired by someone you know?
We’re surrounded by people with all sorts of bodies, all of whom wear clothes. Why should only one body type represent everyone, even in an aspirational sense? That’s something that has always bothered me about the fashion and advertising industry so I try to keep the nature of my work as truthful and inclusive as possible.

The first 11 sketches that were part of #100DaysOfClothesILove featured Péro ensembles. Why is that?
I came across Péro through a friend about seven years ago and fell in love with the label instantly. Back then, there weren’t many people doing the kind of work Aneeth Arora did — I loved the level of detail and the vintage feel in her garments along with the layering of fabric and the whimsical patterns. The handmade feel also reminded me of the clothes Ma stitched for me as a child, so I guess it was an instant connect. There was no way Péros clothes could have been made on a machine or mass-produced; as soon as you saw them, you knew someone had sat and stitched them with love and that really drew me to their work.

Up until Day 12, most of your sketches were accompanied by shorter captions, but post that you started posting little anecdotes to go with the illustrations. What caused the shift?
I approach the project by breaking up the 100 sketches into sets of 10. So every 10 sketches, I pick a new theme. I enjoyed drawing Péro for the first set but the drawings were from ramp photographs and being an animator with a love for stories and characters, I realised the project would be a lot more meaningful for me if I could also document stories of what the clothes meant to the people wearing them. So I picked ikat as a theme and started interviewing friends and Instagram followers about their favourite ikat ensembles. That’s when the captions started getting longer.

After Day 23, you took a sabbatical for almost 9 months before returning to the series on March 8 this year. What was the reason for this?
I was hoping that would go unnoticed! To be very honest, I started the project to kill the one hour I’d have in the morning while my mum made my tiffin for work. But somewhere along the way, the project gained traction and it evolved from a personal project to a community initiative. I felt myself getting more attached to the project, but that also meant investing more time and energy which was something I couldn’t afford at that point. So I hit pause it for a bit. I look forward to the day I complete all 100 though — I really want to.

Explain the process that goes into creating a single sketch for #100DaysOfClothesILove from start to finish.
The first step is picking a muse. I’m very picky about that; sometimes I really like a garment but it’s no fun to draw. Since this is a sketching project, I ensure every subject I pick has something interesting in it that would lend itself well to a sketch. Then, I do a rough outline of the sketch and colour it. At times, I get it right in the first go; the Nor Black Nor White sketch on day 15 took me barely half an hour. For Péro Circus on Day 5, I remember spending an entire evening drawing at least 20 sketches before rendering the final one, which I still wasn’t happy with.

What kind of clothes do you wear?
I’m the founder of a very young start-up, so I’m not quite at a place in life to be able to afford labels yet. I’m not a fan of fast fashion so I usually buy fabric and get it stitched. I love wearing breezy, oversized clothes, mostly because they hide my beer belly. Nor Black Nor White is definitely a favourite — they were even kind enough to send me a free-flowing red dress with white polka ikat after I illustrated one of their dresses.

We know you invite friends and Instagram followers to share stories behind their favourite items of clothing. How do you pick the ones you want to illustrate?
There needs to be something about them that would be fun to draw. It could be the garment itself, the story behind the garment or even the personality. I need to connect with something to want to draw it, otherwise, there’s no heart to it and that would show in the drawing.

Which stories did you personally love illustrating?
Day 7 was fun — I was drawing Péro and woke up to news of a senior from college winning an award, and she’d worn Péro to the ceremony. I had another drawing planned for that day, but I knew I had to draw Akhila. Her sketch was the first time in the project that I drew a person I knew instead of a model and I really enjoyed that. It also gave me joy to know that it would add to her celebration.

Whose illustrative works do you admire?
That list would be very long, but if we were to narrow it down to only the clothes, I love Jasjyot Singh Hans’ fashion croquis and the ease with which he draws them.

What else are you working on, besides this project?
I’ve been taking baby steps towards setting up Bechain Nagri as a storytelling studio where we are developing an animated series for adults — potentially India’s first.

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