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The Keeper of Crafts

Fashion weeks,like recently concluded Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week,are meeting grounds for buyers and designers.

Written by Jagmeeta Thind Joy |
October 24, 2011 3:04:55 am

Designer Madhu Jain’s ‘unexpected’ debut at the recent Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week sparked curiosity

Fashion weeks,like the recently concluded Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week Spring Summer 2012,are meeting grounds for buyers and designers. There’s a visible mix of energy,excitement and business. As Day One at Pragati Maidan picked up pace,designer Madhu Jain,dressed in a signature Indigo choga and kohl-rimmed eyes,looked around — a bit pensive,a bit unsure.

It would be unfair to introduce one of the first few designers of the country; she debuted in 1987. Jain has consciously worked on reviving Indian textiles and techniques,predominantly the Andhra Pradesh Kalamkari without “giving in to the western influence”.

Remember the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ showcased at the opening ceremony of Commonwealth Games 2010 in New Delhi? The designer used 25 Kalamkari fabric panels to form the 40-inch-wide trunk of the 110-feet Bodhi tree installation.

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“The traditional Kalamkari design of the tree of life was the inspiration for the Tree of Knowledge installation,” says Jain,who,in her latest collection,showcases Kalamkari as well as the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma. The specially woven fabrics include ikats from Andhra Pradesh,combined artfully with Kantha embroidery of West Bengal,was on display at her stall at the recent Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week.

A swadeshi by heart,she comes from one of Delhi’s oldest business families. Jain has resisted fashion weeks until now. This time,as she says so herself,upon the insistence of Sunil Sethi,President,Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI),she decided to put up a stall. “I felt that I need to give Indian crafts a presence. This is,after all,an India fashion week,” the sarcasm in her voice is hard to miss. “I have chosen to keep away from fashion weeks,letting my work speak for itself all these years,but now,I want to make an effort to talk about Indian crafts and textiles before they disappear,” says Jain,who recently restored a rare khadi sari,which was woven by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in prison in 1941,for Maneka Gandhi (for her son Varun’s wedding).

Jain has innovatively combined craft and design for projects like Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee on the revival of Nakshikantha,to the ongoing Projekt M with Milind Soman,to breathe life into handmade textile industry. “Today,digital prints replicate just about every Indian weave. I believe the Chinese have now found a way to make Kanjeevaram in factories,” says Jain,who will complete 25 years in the fashion industry in 2012.

Next year,Jain is looking at a mega show that will showcase the best of Indian textiles,including her Nakshikantha and Kalamkari collection,which continues to grab attention. As a designer with knowledge and experience in Indian crafts and textiles,Jain is readying to pass on the baton to her son,Vinayak. “The guru-shishya parampara is,after all,a part of our culture,” sums up Jain.

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