Harper's Bazaar March 2016 - Page 256

MY IKAT New York-based designer Bibhu Mohapatra shares his love for the fabric of his childhood MY FIRST MEMORY of ikat is of a beautiful cotton sari my mother had. It was peacock blue with gold borders, with small Pasapalli patterns that made it unique. To me, ikat is the perfect balance of science and art, where the yarns are individually dyed and woven together to bring out amazing patterns. I have seen artisans write poems in ikat, literally letter by letter. It is the couture of all weaving techniques. While researching on ikat in the past, I’ve come across some beautiful ones from Peru, Guatemala, Indonesia, Japan, and even Yemen. But the most incredible ikats are from Patan in Gujarat, and from Odisha, my home state. I have been working on a textile project there for the past three years, and it’s from that weavers’ community that I sourced the ikat I’ve used in my garment for the Harper’s Bazaar Inspires: Ikat initiative. Textiles like ikat that have a long cultural history need to be kept alive through constant reinvention. We must ask ourselves why ikat is relevant now. What makes it ideal for the modern woman? To a weave like ikat, nothing is more stifling than the bonds of tradition. If designers don’t use ikat in modern, creative, and pathbreaking ways, it will die, because the customers will never know what ikat is capable of, and how it can contribute to their contemporary wardrobes. Personally, I am fortunate that I was born and raised in Odisha where ikat played an important role in day-to-day lives of the people. My heritage has always given me that edge in my work. For example, I used ikat in temple patterns in multiple colours in my Resort 2013 collection, and even as trims on blouses, dresses, and jackets. But that does not mean you need to belong to an area or a culture to be able to explore a particular textile. A designer who has never designed with ikat could possibly do something spectacular with it because they don’t have a history with it. Experimentation is key. It will keep our textile traditions alive. I feel our heritage fabrics are real gems. They are so traditional yet so modern and of the moment. And I was truly honored and humbled by Bazaar’s invitation to be a part of this project amongst all the amazing Indian designers with unique voices. There is still much that needs to be done to improve the conditions of the weavers and weaving communities, and this endeavour by Harper’s Bazaar India— to bring the fashion community together to celebrate indigenous textiles—will definitely guide this movement in the right direction. Graphic content. OPPOSITE PAGE (Left to right): On Alicia: Sari and blouse, Masaba. Cuff, `35,550, Fendi. On Elena: Coat, AM:IT. Trousers, Armaan:Aiman. Shoes, `58,600, Fendi. On Bridget: Jacket, Paromita Banerjee. Trousers, Payal Khandwala. Shoes, `12,500, a.k.a Bespoke. On Namrata: Tunic, Madhu Jain. 256