The Heroes Reviving India’s Heritage Textiles: David Abraham And Rakesh Thakore
Where: New Delhi
Known for: Ikat weaves
The joy of working on a handloom creation right from inception to its maturity is something that drives ikat revivalism in India. David Abraham and Rakesh Thakore call it a complete process; working with ikat weavers of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Gujarat, charting designs from the nascent stage to the completion of a gorgeous garment.
Revered for their work with traditional ikat, the duo has been diligently experimenting with techniques, designs and patterns to infuse a new perspective into the art. The ikat creations of A&T are fresh, stark, edgy and universal in appeal. “Ikat, as a genre, has always fascinated us because you can experiment in both the single and double ikat techniques. But double ikat is more challenging as the avenues to toy with the warp and weft and play with colours, yarns and resistances are manifold,” explains Thakore.
At National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, Thakore’s craft documentation was on the ikat weaves where, for his thesis, he explored its varieties and the diverse warp and weft techniques. The richness of the fabric and the sheer flexibility of using it in a variety of designs opened up the floodgates of his creative acumen. While his knowledge on textiles was in place, Abraham was prodigious in the design department and ideated on how to make the clothes subtle, innovative and luxurious. Abraham says, “We often restrict production to a few numbers. There are double ikat saris, woven in editions of four. This exclusivity is what real luxury is about.”
Every area flaunts a singularity in weave and design, explains Thakore. While Gujarat’s Patan Patola thrives on double ikat, the Odisha ikat is distinguished for its clarity, precision and play with yarns. The Andhra ikat is about floral and geometric patterns on cottons, silk cottons and silks.
The journey that began in 1991 has grown stronger with every fashion season. Time and again, they have churned out classy handloom apparel that has warmed the cockles of a connoisseur’s heart. Their work was also displayed at an exhibition on contemporary Indian design at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London a few years ago and the label sells in USA, China, Japan, France and Russia. “ Ikat has always been a global trend. There is an awareness about this expensive weave technique and clients are willing to pay for the beauty of it. The Indian customer also loves this technique. Ikat has had its great moments in the past. It’s that glory we seek to retain,” says Thakore. “We have incorporated our designs into home furnishing pieces as well, producing bed covers and cushions over the years,” adds Abraham.
The duo simplifies traditional motifs, and plays with proportion to achieve a modern take. “The weavers work in tandem with our ever-evolving design principles to amalgamate new structures, elements, yardages, blends, textures and warp and weft combinations,” they elaborate.
There is a certain richness to natural fabrics that no power loom can attain. A weaver starts working in the morning. By afternoon, he is tired and someone else takes over. The final product merges the styles of many hands. “The flaws of weaving turn out to be its beauty. With every wash, it attains a luxurious sheen. Anyone who revels in handwoven fabrics knows the ethereal feel these textiles deliver. It’s classic, rich and magical,” Thakore rounds off.