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Putting the rad in traditional

September 24, 2017 09:00 IST

It can take up to 23 steps, spread over months, to create a Vraj:bhoomi product! 

Nikita Puri meets the duo that is breathing new life into the Ajrakh pattern.

Bhoomi Dani Priyam Shah Vraj:Bhoomi ajrakh

With Bhoomi Dani's revivalist approach and Priyam Shah's business acumen, Vraj:bhoomi's charm lies in its easy and relaxed garments -- anti-fit being the keyword here.
Photograph: vrajbhoomi.in.

 

For centuries together in the artisan community that thrives in Kutch, Gujarat, "rang utarna aur rang chadhana (adding and removing colour)" has been an art passed down in families.

Some time in the 15th century, "our forefathers moved here from Sindh at the invitation of the king of Kutch," say artisans of the Khatri community. Their claim to fame is Ajrakh, a vast array of geometrical patterns that are blockprinted on fabric.

Taking the story of these craftspeople across India are Bhoomi Dani and Priyam Shah, the powerhouse of a young indie label called Vraj:bhoomi.

Till sometime ago, the Ahmedabad-born label would rely on pop-up shops at multidesign stores and art galleries. As Vraj:bhoomi has recently gone online with an e-store, pin codes can no longer hold these stories back.

 

In the summer of 2009, when Dani graduated from the National Institute of Fashion Technology after specialising in textile design, she knew she wanted to "push boundaries in the creation of a new aesthetic using old-world and traditional processes".

With Dani's revivalist approach and Shah's business acumen, Vraj:bhoomi's charm lies in its easy and relaxed garments -- anti-fit being the keyword here.

Using Ajrakh patterns that have opposing polarities, the designs thrive with layering. Tiny dashes lined up across the fabric of knee-length black dress, for instance, are paired with a flowing overlay dominated by circular patterns.

At Vraj:bhoomi, the fabric undergoes a painstaking process.

To witness the creation of Ajrakh, swears the team, is to watch a "miracle of nature". Just like "life flows from water and energy flows from the sun, the sacred, vibrant colours from the plants and rocks move into the hands of the artisan, his only tool," says Shah.

Intricately carved wooden blocks that come from the heart of tree trunks leave behind designs on fabric -- these designs are made only with natural dyes.

The blues come from indigo leaves and the reds from the fleshy roots of madder plants.

Henna leaves make the green dyes, fermented iron and jaggery give black, while the yellows come from combinations of turmeric and pomegranate rinds.

Depending upon the availability of raw material and factors such as the amount of sunshine, it can take up to 23 steps, spread over months, to create a Vraj:bhoomi product. 

But the effort has paid off. "Once we had a client at one of our exhibitions, who wore the outfit immediately after buying it. She said the best thing about our collection is that it doesn't need a reason or an occasion to wear it," they say.

A 100 per cent "cotton only" label, kurtis and overlays may make up the bulk of Vraj:bhoomi's  designs, but it also stock tops, scarves, stoles, slip-on footwear and loafers.

It is, however, the multicoloured brogues that steal the show. Chic and bohemian in the same vein, these truly encapsulate the label's idea of giving a modern twist to traditional designs.

You'll also find diaries with upcycled fabric covers and bangles crafted out of leftovers on the website.

While the garments fall in the price range of ₹3,000 to ₹6,000, the footwear is priced upwards of ₹1,600 and accessories begin at ₹600.

Everything is handmade.

Nikita Puri in Gujarat
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