A tapestry of woven tales

Madhumita Nath’s Ek Katha crafts a lasting handloom story by exemplifying traditional and ecological means of creation 

Published: 30th April 2023 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th April 2023 11:04 AM   |  A+A-

Storytelling through crafts

Storytelling through crafts

Express News Service

Ek Katha means ‘a story’ in Hindi, and storytelling through crafts has always been designer Madhumita Nath’s mantra. “There is always a tale behind each piece of cloth—the how, what and when. Our outfits, handcrafted painstakingly, exemplify traditional and ecological means of creation,” she says. The philosophy is amply reflected in the new resort wear line, Geometry in Motion, by the brand, which went commercial in 2022.

Inspired by the symmetry of architectural jaalis (latticed walls) and panels that screen light and heat, the collection has a fluid quality created with silks and linen with an overload of prints layered with corded patterns, all of which present a play of translucency and opacity. Earthy colours, ranging from the lightness of tangerine to rich deep purples, the eclectic silhouettes tell you how the most contemporary of cuts––saris, dresses and coord sets––can be achieved through the most traditional 
of techniques. 

“I have always been drawn to the craft process, the depth of indigenous cultural knowledge that is available to us in every region of India, and the way it is so ecologically aligned,” says the NID (Ahmedabad) alumnus, who debuted as a ‘Gen Next’ designer at the Lakme Fashion Week in 2019. But, she started out in 2016 with a small batch of kala cotton, native to Gujarat, on which she did Kutchi batik block-printing.

The technique, practised specifically in Kutch, has remained one of the brand’s core crafts. “Kutch has always been a familiar region for me due to its proximity to my institute and I would often make trips there. While those travels were never consciously for hunting out fabrics or techniques, each trip ended up being full of serendipitous discoveries,” Nath recalls.

A chance meeting with batik artisan Shakeel Khatri at his Mundhra workshop was what exposed her to the beauty of the process as well as the artistic result of block-printing, which is more controlled than batik painting. “There was beauty in the monotones. Every aspect came together for me to take it up as the textile surface treatment I wanted to adopt, giving a distinct look and feel to all my designs,” she says. 

In contrast to the fast-paced life of the city Nath is based out of—Mumbai—the brand is a proponent of slow fashion, for its spirit is firmly rooted in the crafts and their simple rustic surroundings. It is no surprise then that Rajasthan’s kota doria, Madhya Pradesh’s chanderi and the many weaves of Odisha and West Bengal also find place in the brand’s collections.

“We are now working on building our own craft ecosystem and engaging directly with weavers,” says the designer, who describes herself as  a collector of all things vintage, scavenger of flea markets, and admirer of anything well-aged, well-lived and well-used––in short, everything that has a history or story to tell.

In keeping with her strict sustainable credo, Nath believes in only sourcing fabric that is not chemically treated. It is then coloured using natural dyes. She says, kala cotton, for example, is an indigenous species grown through regenerative farming techniques that preserve the soil microbiome, reduce dependency on irrigation—it is not water-intensive—and does not need pesticides, thus making it organic.

Cultivated in minuscule quantity, the crop is tough to spin by hand, thereby making the yarn thick, and the resulting fabric not-so-fine. “The cloth, however, has its own beauty––it absorbs natural colours and is strong as well as comfortable,” she says, adding that the brand’s work on kala cotton is an ongoing process of refinement.

What next? “Building a brand that is honest and ethical, and to acquire a loyal customer base. We would also like to be more proactive in recycling our materials,” she says. 

India Matters


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