Prashant Garg and his wife Shweta, the design acumen behind Label Pratham, are just back from the Kutch region of Gujarat. Working closely with the Ahir community has been an enlightening experience. The tribe is famous for its intricate hand embroidery that renders a colourful detail on any monochromatic fabric.“They are working on a large collection for us,” explains Prashant. This will be a union of their artisanship and the heritage art of Pichwai of Nathdwara in Rajasthan.
The excitement of the duo is palpable. Days of work in the arid landscape is slowly bearing fruit. To meld different art forms of India with a prime focus on Rajasthan’s divine Pichwai has been an area of interest for Label Pratham for fours years now. They have not only been diligently reviving the 17th century-old Pichwai art, but giving it a rather clever spin with other art, weaves and craft traditions from the hinterland of India to create saris that spell surreal sophistication.
For instance, we spot a yellow drape whose body flaunts the batik art, even as the pallu has deft handpainted Pichwai art to depict the story of Chalein Shrinathki ke dwar. “We have artists based in Delhi and Bhilwara who create artworks for us. We translate those paintings to our saris. While some of the saris are handpainted with Pichwai art itself, some showcase the finesse of batik, patachitra, embellished further with delicate antique hand embroidery. We work on handwoven fabrics such as linen tussar, moonga silk, ghicha and jamdani, sourced from a cluster of weavers in Bengal and Bihar we have been associating with for a few years,” says Prashant.
The design intervention doesn’t end here. Shweta and Prashant have interpreted Pichwai in the jamdani as well as paithani. “It took us some time to convince the weavers to break away from their traditional grids. But once they saw how luxurious the final product was, they started believing in our convictions. The peacocks of the paithanis are replaced by the dhenu (cows) and the geometrical patterns of the jamdani give way to the more elaborate motifs of the Nathdwara paintings.
They are sheer luxury to don. Anyone who is fascinated by handwoven and handcrafted beauties will be able to identify with our work. We look into the finer details. The facing is done with the finest ajrakh sourced from Gujarat. The contemporary elements are added with exquisite hand embroidery, vintage borders, playful ruffles and scalloping,” says Shweta.
“We wanted to work with Pichwai to give fashion an enormously beautiful form that hasn’t been experimented with before. If you notice, our work is more a confluence of states of India. We combine weaves of different places with Pichwai of Rajasthan, interpreted sometimes through patachitra of Odisha, Madhubani of Bihar or batik of Bengal and finish it with ajrakh of Gujarat to create wearable art in the form of saris, dupattas and lehengas,” avers Prashant.
The label, named after their son, Pratham, has steady patronage from the Ambanis, Adanis, Ritu Kumar and actor Vidya Balan. The Gargs, who are self-taught designers, have always been fascinated with the Pichwai art form. The vibrant colours, the divinity oozing from the paintings, the serene disposition of Lord Krishna and the cows, the artistic plants, lotus and the entire idea of storytelling through a painting caught their fancy.
Every sari is a class apart. But then, these are the luxury creations. Not everyone finds them pocket friendly. So, they also create a selection of saris where the painting is digitally printed in linen tussars. “To get a good printer who will get the exact colour and figure details is something.
Thankfully, we have someone dedicated to perfection. But the paintings are still made by our house artists. Every sari is different as we make only limited editions of each piece,” explains Shweta.Label Pratham retails out of a beautiful self-designed courtyard in New Delhi’s Punjabi Bagh. Here one can revel in the handcrafted beauties and also witness the journey of this designer duo who have given an innovative lease of life to the age-old art form of Pichwai.