Every region has its own traditional costumes that go back thousands of years. Designers often get inspired by this proud heritage and look for ways to adapt them to make them contemporary. Padma Yangchan and Jigmet Disket, founders of Ladakhi couture brand, Namza, are treading the same path.
While working on their label, balancing traditions with modernity became their calling card. Hailing from different backgrounds, this passion to work with local textiles and bring forth a modern vocabulary brought the two together. “We wanted to start an impactful journey that would represent our value, passion and all things we loved. That’s how Namza was born in 2016 and there has been no looking back,” they say. Boasting its own in-house handloom production as well as community-based vast network of artisans in Ladakh, Namza is justifiably proud of the collection it showcased at the London Fashion Week in 2019. “The collection was made from our local, naturally dyed, hand-spun and hand-woven woollen fabrics. The techniques and silhouettes were traditional but with a modern twist,” says Yangchan.
Constantly making an effort to become a conscious label, the brand believes sustainable fashion is the need of the hour, and issues regarding the negative impacts of fashion need to be addressed at every step. “It is important that we reduce our carbon footprint. One of the essential parts of turning sustainable is ensuring that the people in the supply chain are also benefitted,” says Disket.
Namza is one of the few sustainable designer labels to develop a direct relationship with the source itself. Nambu (sheep wool), spuruk (textured sheep wool from the Zanskar region), yak wool and camel wool are the traditional textiles they use. Besides, it also sources cotton, silk and linen directly from cottage industries across India.
With a unique blend of colours, fabrics, embroideries and patchwork, the brand aims to keep the Himalayan clothing culture alive in terms of designing, retain the original traditional elements, and keep the culture and heritage of Ladakh as well as the impact of the Silk Route in the region rooted in its aesthetics.
Elaborating on the design process, the duo says that they have been working with local artisans to revive the old textiles as well as modify them to make it more suitable for today’s time. “These weavers also excel in different weaving techniques, which earlier used to be limited to a specific design pattern. For example, earlier nambu was thick and heavy in weight and more favourable for the harsh climatic conditions. But climate change called for an advance in our textiles as well. This is where our spinners take over,” the duo adds. They have learnt to spin a thinner and finer fibre than those by previous generations, making it a more comfortable wear.
“Being Ladakhi, we always get some element in, in a very subtle way, acknowledging our people who are proud of their rich culture and heritage. Also, being a slow fashion brand has always been our choice. But at the same time, the struggle to put our brand on the map is real. Creating newer products is crucial,” say Yangchan and Disket.
As for future plans, the duo is currently exploring natural dyeing processes and colour options to add to their portfolio. They also plan to open stores in other parts of the country and introduce the rich art and culture of Ladakh to the world.