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Project R&D: Re-emergence of design

By Maheen Khan
Fashion designer, Mayasir

The world of fashion is a journey. It evolves and ideas develop that are move forward and sweep through moments in time. It is never static or unchanging but always in motion.

These are exciting times globally. Fashion trends stir and swing to the remotest places. International labels mould indigenous products in the most inspiring, momentous lines just as we are encouraged to design wearable products by backtracking to our roots. Embedded in our past lies an archive of motifs that stimulate our connections to our styles.

There is something magical about a tribute to our historical weaves and ornamentation. We have a spiritual association with our land and its craft that we love to draw upon in our fashion sense.

In Bangladesh there is so much brilliance in our weaves and textiles. We see variety on every loom. We embrace our textile traditions, but today we have also learned to shift and modify our look. We live and breathe fabrics that reveal embellishment with modern nuances and cutting edge finish.

Our thread has an ethereal connection to the people of this nation. As we take a peek into the vast universe of the design traditions we like to appreciate the complex customary expressions in our motifs that reinvent the stories in our lives.

In the “Jamdani” weaves of the banks of Shitalakkha in Dhaka are embedded a thousand years of ingenuity. The fine Tangail weaves is alluring and leaves us in awe and admiration. The innovative weaves of Narsingdi have transformed our ready-to-wear fashion industry. The 'Nakshi Kantha' embroidery is a rich array of intense luscious threads that are exquisite. The more we delve into our rich layers of patterns the more we realise that we have merely skimmed the surface.

There are over 25 different kinds of weaves in Bangladesh and easily over 50 different crafts, but despite their diversity the crafts in Bangladesh are dying. We have limited access to them and by the time they reach our shelves they have been rendered too conventional and uninspiring, and lost its true character.

On most occasions it is also true that the creators of these beautiful crafts sink deeper into poverty, paying the middleman. The government has not done enough in terms of grants. This is where designers have stepped in over the years.

The established designers and brands have long been involved in the revival of many home-grown traditions. There is a resurgence of interest that has been mutually beneficial and has to a great extent brought to the forefront many obscure traditions in handlooms and handmade products. The designers are enthusiastic about defining the spirit of the times. A vibrant makeover is just what is needed to stay relevant to the new generation wearing them.

Craft: Woven checks
Home: Sirajganj

The handwoven checks of these regions have been used for the making of “gamcha” -- a light absorbent cloth used for drying oneself. In the 90s initiatives were taken by Grameen and BRAC to invest in both design and production, specifically for the export market. In order to achieve a higher quality of material the designers changed the construction of the material. With the higher count and twist of thread the fabric evolved into a new yardstick of excellence.

While the original form of design can be traced back at least 300 years or more the new, more innovative adaptation has flourished over the years since. Designers and manufacturers alike have used this material extensively with the growth of the ready-to-wear homegrown industry.

Craft: Tangail silk
Home: Tangail

A village in Tangail called Patrail is responsible and can be acknowledged for the revival of good quality weave. In the early 80s steps were taken by a few NGOs to support and market this particular sari. If one is looking for a true Bangladeshi weave, then this town is surely on the handloom route.

Tangail is one of the most famous textiles of Bangladesh; the weavers of the pit-loom have been plying their trade for over 200 years or more. Today designers have redesigned much new modification to increase not only the variety of weave but also the customary, familiar end use. The fabrics are developed for scarves, dopattas and even dress materials. Fine Tangail silk muslin is also used extensively for home furnishings.

Craft: Ikat
Home: Ishwardi

This craft from the banks of the river Padma has existed for hundreds of years and has been a complex derivation of the plain weaves of Noapara. There is no historical reference of this particular craft in Bangladesh. Although geographical identification suggests the Ikats of Andrapradesh may have been closely associated with this technique for a very long time and may have influenced the development of this weave in Bangladesh.

This is a technique of patterning textiles using a resist dying process to tie and dye on the warp fibres. In Ishwardi these ikats are primarily used for lungis. In the mid-90s again designers successfully transformed and transferred the technique for dress goods and dopattas. Weavers were brought to Norshendi in Dhaka to acquire the knowledge of Ikat and articulated new design formations, patterns and motifs for the homegrown industry.

Craft: Broad loom
Home: Narsingdi

This is one of the oldest textile belts of Bangladesh. This region was famous for weaves but also for the production of fine cotton. Panam Nagar was established in the late 18th century as a trading post. It flourished for over 150 years till the partition of India. This region includes, Rupganj, Tarabo, Araihazar, Sonargaon and Narsingdi.

The weaving tradition here can be traced back to over five 500 years. Weaving excellence achieved its distinction with Jamdani, which continues to be produced here but many other forms of handloom textiles coexisted in this region.

Beginning in the 80s, designers began to experiment with broadloom for the production of home accessories. There was a serious need to expand on home products. Honey-comb, herring-bone, twills and double weaves to name a few were used to develop bed spreads, cushions, table place mats, runners and napkins. The weavers of Narsingdi were single-handedly responsible for the singular and noteworthy range of goods with the support of innovative ground breaking work of the textile designers of Bangladesh.

Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Model: Airin
Makeup: Farzana Shakil
Wardrobe: Tangail Sharee Kutir
Jewellery: Genuine Himalayan Jeweleries


Le Reve celebrates the month of colours

With the last cold breeze dying away, a festival of colours is now in the offing. The month of February will see numerous celebrations, all of which will be tinged in many different yet vibrant hues. Considering that, Le Reve brings about their new collection featuring their latest line of shalwar kameez sets, T-shirts, panjabis and tunics.

The three occasions to grace this month of February are Pohela Falgun, Valentine's Day and 21st February. Le Reve's latest designs reflect the various colours and flavours of each of these three days. Valentine's Day's line includes T-shirts, tunics and shalwar kameez sets.

The dominant colours in the theme are red, white and black, reflecting the colour of the heart, the purity of love and the solidity of the emotion. The Falgun collection features traditional garbs of kameezes, tunics and panjabis, all in varying hues of orange, yellow and lemon green. Finally, there is the Ekushey February line which includes panjabis and shalwar kameez sets in the mandatory colours of red, black and white. All the lines also include children's wear.

Apart from some of the trendiest designs being sported, various implementations have been made keeping a younger segment of buyers in mind. Fitted panjabis and long kameezes are all present.

Given that the winter chills haven't disappeared completely, the T-shirts are given a full sleeve, while cotton is the dominant fabric used. Traces of linen are used in the women's versions to add a little oomph to the finished products.

A 20 plus team of designers ensure that whatever hits the racks at the store are not only fashionable but distinct from what the other boutique houses have to offer. Individual identity is a key feature in all of Le Reve's clothing.

Fabrics from places such as India and Thailand are brought in to give the products the quality that customers demand so highly. Carefully placed orders are also given to domestic producers, given they meet the high standards that Le Reve has been maintaining since its inception back in 2009. “To ensure we remain price-competitive, we have also begun looking into the fabric market in China,” Monnujan, the Head Designer, informs.

This year's collection too offers reasonable prices. Tunics are priced from Tk.1000-5,000, shalwar kameez sets from Tk. 2200-25000 and panjabis go up to Tk.4,000. The collection can be found at all five outlets of Le Reve at Wari, Mirpur, Uttara, Banasri and the outlet in Sylhet. Furthermore, look out also for their upcoming Pohela Boishakh collection which will include shalwar kameez sets, fatuas, panjabis and much more for men, women and matching wear for children as well.

By Osama Rahman
Photo courtesy: Le Reve


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