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Once upon a mundu - The Hindu

Once upon a mundu – The Hindu

Sitting in quiet splendour on Napier Street, the 300-year-old Portuguese house with its postbox red door has been getting an eclectic mix of visitors over the last few weeks. In December, it was Kimberly Drew, till recently a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Then came Chris Dercon, the former director of Tate Modern in London. Leading entrepreneurs from India have also been dropping by the concept store, One Zero Eight, all taking home beautifully fashioned reminders of a journey of resilience by the weaving community of Kochi — from jackets and stoles to elegant dresses in khadi. And then you have members of said weaving societies coming by with their families to see for themselves how leading Indian designers have given a new spin to their age-old craft.

Hope in white

When more than 300 weavers in Chendamangalam village were rendered jobless during the Kerala floods last August, with their looms and homes destroyed, Ramesh Menon was one of several people from the fashion fraternity who stepped up to help. Having worked with the Fashion Design Council of India, he reached out to over 30 of our designers known for celebrating Indian textiles. The idea was simple. Each label was given about 14 metres of khadi in the form of the thorthu and mundu (a drape popular among many men in Kerala), and asked to interpret it in their own philosophy. The khadi came from the Gandhi Smarak Grama Seva Kendram Centre in Nanthiattkunnam (near Kochi). Some designers like Anju Modi, Himanshu Shani and Aneeth Arora visited the weaving clusters and took back stories of hope. Soon they, together with Rajesh Pratap Singh, David Abraham and Rakesh Thakore, Ujjwal Dubey and others, were ready with the finished pieces. All garments celebrated the fabric, elevating the natural off-white. “We played with the fabric, draped and moved it around, showcased the border, which is the speciality, and added just a line of coloured stitching as a highlight,” says Abraham of A&T.

Delhi-based Shani, who has been working with khadi at his brand 11.11/Eleven Eleven for years now, is responsible for the store design, together with experiential designer Wasim Khan. The store has a table made from loom boards and other loom parts reclaimed from the floods that, according to Shani, “have given soul to the exhibit”.

Pay it forward

This is just one of the many One Zero Eight installations that will take place over the course of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the 108-day-long art festival that is underway. Menon says that with about 90% of the weaving workforce being women and a majority above the age of 50, the idea behind SaveTheLoom.org is to work with the cooperative societies and ensure constant work flow. “It is good that the organisers have introduced this fabric to us designers, helping us explore its potential. Weavers will now continue to create relationships outside their community and that is encouraging,” concludes Abraham.

One Zero Eight is at Aambal, Napier Street, Fort Kochi. Pero jackets and trench coats at ₹14,500, and Rajesh Pratap shirts at ₹10,000 to ₹15,000.


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