Misra’s easy breezy spring-summer collection showcased at Lakme Fashion Week Summer-Resort 2019 was a mix of saris and separates. The distinct cording, pleating and embroidery embellishments on saris and separates are her nod to the Sa Pa tribes of Vietnam. Sa Pa is a mountain town in Lao Cai province in Vietnam, located nearly 350 kilometres northwest of Hanoi, closer to the Chinese border.
Anavila’s husband began working in Vietnam in 2015 when she first learnt about Sa Pa and the indigo-rich textiles the tribes were known for; she was intrigued. “My husband had planned a tourist-y itinerary but I told him I wanted to go to Sa Pa,” she laughs.
Sa Pa can be reached only by train, followed by a two-hour drive. In this quiet town, she noticed how the older folk took pride in wearing traditional textiles while some of the younger boys and girls had begun to wear denims and t-shirts. “I had also read a book on the use of indigo in different parts of the world. I was aware that people in Laos and Vietnam had different expressions of the use of indigo in their textiles, drawing from their own cultures,” she says.
In Sa Pa, Anavila noticed that the clothing of the tribes was very “costume-y”. Each ethnic tribe had a distinct approach to embellishing garments, using patchworks, embroidery and weaving patterns. “Their indigo is also locally sourced and stored, and they have an artisanal approach. The tribes make their own clothes, by hand, and the techniques are passed on from one generation to another,” she observes. In these respects, the tribes aren’t too different from the clusters in Bhuj and Rajasthan. However, Anavila notes that while dyers in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Kolkata have acquired a more professional method of indigo dyeing to cater to the market needs, the tribes in Sa Pa have a traditional approach.
The men and women of Sa Pa wore a number of layers in different hues of indigo, as the weather conditions changed from snowy winters to balmy summers. “Sa Pa also gets a lot of rain. So people like comfort clothing — the women wear trousers or shorts with long jackets. When their clothes get old they mend and re-use them,” says Anavila.
Over subsequent visits, as Anavila began working with clusters in Sa Pa, she used their techniques of pleating, cording and embroidery. Her summer collection uses breathable linens, kala cotton from Bhuj, and silk-khadi blends for saris, skirts, floor-length jackets, tunics, kaftans and other separates.
Anavila is known predominantly for her luxurious yet easy-to-drape linen saris but this time, it was an almost equal mix of saris and separates: “The batik hand-painting that you see in some of the garments were done in Sa Pa and then dyed in indigo.”
The colour palette moves from ivory white and beige to chocolate brown, indigo, peach, leaf green and charcoal. While designing this summer collection for predominantly urban Indian buyers, Anavila was keen to infuse the ethos of Sa Pa in a minimalistic and contemporary mode.
Having observed the buying patterns of the well-travelled clientèle during her previous showcases in Hyderabad, she says, “Hyderabad buyers are clued into fashion trends around the world and look for something new. The women here understand natural dyes and like to wear saris. So there’s a sizeable market for my work.”
(Anavila Misra will showcase her summer collection at Ogaan, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad on April 16)