The ongoing Dastkar Nature Bazaar at Kamma Sangham Hall is worth a visit if you like fabric, artefacts and accessories that have been made with an eco-friendly approach. Some of these stalls look deceptively simple, but strike a conversation with the people managing them and there are stories of craft revival, of small organisations that have helped artisans explore new markets.
The collection of Udaipur-based label ‘Aavaran – Echoes of Rural India’ is an ode to the deep pigments of indigo. Muls, soft cottons, Maheshwari silk cottons, Gujarat’s gajji silks and tussars are dyed in natural or German indigo, turmeric yellows and root pinks. The group has designers from National Institute of Design (NID) and National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) whose interventions have helped artisans in Udaipur to develop saris, kurtas, stoles, jackets and accessories for urban markets. “No piece of fabric goes waste in our workshop,” says Suresh Prajapat, who’s in Hyderabad on behalf of Aavaran for the bazaar.
Taking a zero-waste approach, leftover fabric goes into making quirky-looking pouches (owl-shaped bags anyone?), pen holders and dhurries. Suresh comes from an artisan family and talks about the use of indigo and Dabu, the mud resist hand block printing and dyeing technique Rajasthan in known for. “We mostly use natural colours,” he says, showing off a mustard yellow sari whose colour has come from turmeric. Aavaran’s motifs play on the ‘phentiya’ print, a staple of Mewar region.
Aavaran was founded by Alka Sharma, a textile graduate from Indian Institute of Crafts and Design, Jaipur. “My father was in police service and since he would be transferred often, we lived in different parts of Rajasthan and I learnt about the crafts of the state. My mother and naani used to make dhurries in their spare time,” she recalls.
Research and development began in 2007-08 and Aavaran began marketing its products through Dastkar from 2011-12. “We’re a design and craft studio; everything is done in-house,” she says. Aavaran engages 100 full-time artisans and 200 other craftsmen on order basis.
Their forte is a contemporary take on Dabu. Alka rues the rise of screenprinting units across Sanganer and wanted to revert to traditional methods. Initially, Aavaran worked from Akola near Udaipur. “The water in Udaipur has the right pH that’s required for our work, so we moved,” she explains. “Artisans in Akola didn’t even have tables to do their printing work, when we began. We worked with the state government on a five-year project and trained communities.”
It began as a small movement that addressed migration of youth from the villages and today, Aavaran retails online through Jaypore and Ajio, and exports to Japan, US and Korea. “We have collections in natural indigo as well as German indigo, since not many are willing to pay higher price for natural dyes. However, the German indigo we use has 70% natural pigments,” she explains.
The biggest issue with indigo dyed garments, which most buyers would point out, is the colour bleeding. Alka says it boils down to how the colour has been developed and the dyeing method used: “We’ve tested and develop a technique that ensures less colour loss.”
Also a part of Aavaran’s portfolio is a limited edition ‘ayur vastra’ or fabric with medicinal properties that use barks, roots and stems.