This World Handloom Day we interviewed our favorite designer Payal Khandwala, she has given our traditional handlooms a very simple yet contemporary makeover that has a global voice. We discussed her journey, her love for handlooms and the importance of sustainability in fashion.
- Tell us about yourself?
Well I have degree in both fashion and in fine arts. I studied at Parsons and lived in New York for almost a decade, I’ve lived in Barcelona. I think a lot of the decisions I make in design are informed by my experience as a painter.
Colour, proportion, line… I love architecture and origami.
I ’m not a very formal person by nature and even though I take my work very seriously I don’t take myself that seriously. I don’t like to intellectualize clothing. I want them to be inclusive, not intimidating, and I think a strong product that does its job well is half the battle won.
- What inspired you to start your label?
On my return from New York, I couldn’t find clothes that were just simple yet dramatic. That was priced well and that had a certain India modern spirit. I wanted clothes that were rooted in India but transcended our cultural and geographical boundaries.
So I decided to simply make them. There were no options for me that ticked all the boxes for clothes made for women by women that really understood what we want and why… and even if they did exist their philosophy was not less is more. I thought we really needed something that was the voice of a new India. Clothes with a point of view.
- What is your brand ethos?
We believe in making clothes that are functional, but still luxurious. I love the simplicity and fuss-free clothing that empower women. This is why my focus is always personal style over fashion because trends can enslave you.
4. How did handloom fabrics become such a big part of your design aesthetic?
I’ve always loved the poetry of a handwoven textile. Just the idea that it is woven by man, the process, the time, the love and skill it takes to weave the simplest of textiles. The romance of that is unparalleled in my eyes.
I love them with all their imperfections and their possibilities.
I find they feel more real, more tactile and they are deeply rooted in our tradition, but they are so versatile and in a different context can be so global in their spirit too. India is singular in this area, with the length and breadth of our craft belts across our country.
- You are known to work with a variety of handlooms from around the country, which variety of handloom interests you the most and why? (What fabrics do you prefer to work with)
I personally prefer silks because the yarn takes colour so well, especially when the hues are saturated, and I love to play with colour so silk textiles are my favorite.
I also love the benerasi brocades because it’s beauty lies in the fact that they are so intricate and the gold thread makes them so luxurious but also light and comfortable!
- What are some of the challenges of working with such fabrics?
The most obvious one is that they can be a little more expensive, they can have small imperfections that customers have to understand are part of the nature of handwoven textiles. The production can sometimes be lengthy because the set up is tedious. But all of this can be worked around.
- How do you work towards empowering these handloom artisans?
From our end, we support them in a continual way because this is something I love and believe in. We don’t work with them for one season and then skip the next. We never try to haggle about prices because weavers are not well remunerated anyways. We make our payments on time. We have a system where they and their families are covered in terms of health and education. We try to support women that can work with handlooms from their homes once their daily duties end. We try our best to support them in a more well rounded way.
Plus by introducing them to new ideas we also encourage them to expand their skill set, push the boundaries and explore more avenues.
- In the recent years have you witnessed any innovation in the handloom industry in India?
Lots. Designers are introducing new ways of thinking, new materials and different points of view. This will help elevate the perception of handlooms from being old school to a concept that is more modern, more relevant.
- Do you think sustainability in fashion essential?
Absolutely. We cannot manufacture or buy without being conscious of what we are supporting. We must ask the relevant questions. And we must consume less. The planet does not need more clothes that end up in landfills. We have to treat our planet with care!
- Do you have a message for upcoming ethical fashion brands?
I hope that they don’t treat this as something temporary. This support has to be continued and an ongoing effort to support our weaver communities financially. I hope that it is not a trend but more a way of thinking.
- Which other designer/ label inspires you?
I love what Pero does! Aneeth is committed to craft and has such an honest eye for details.
- What does sustainability mean to you?
Apart from sourcing and manufacturing responsibly, to me, conscious consumption is the only we to be sustainable.
We must slow fashion down a bit and buy less but better and wear for longer!
This coupled with economic sustainability where we support our craft sectors financially, is the only way to be sustainable in a holistic way.
Explore her collection at http://www.payalkhandwala.in/