Designer Kasturi Guha's brand EthnikYarn is all about slow fashion

Kasturi Guha's sustainable label EthnikYarn is focusing on design innovation, while going against fast fashion to make time for organic, artisan-oriented style statements
Kasturi Guha hand-crafted blouse
Kasturi Guha hand-crafted blouse

When you buy a handspun sari from Kasturi Guha’s label EthnikYarn, you also get to be a part of the ever-evolving narrative of craftsmanship in India. Guha, who is the label's sole designer, tells us that her brand at its core, is a celebration of the weavers, their skills, their history, and the spirit of their craft. Guha, who divides her time between Kolkata and Vancouver, was brought up around a culture that recognised the novelty of locally sourced, handmade wearables. And with her brand, the designer is devising a meaningful connect between her work and her past.

Guha tells us that despite moving out of the country 15 years ago, she never lost touch with the trajectory of craftsmanship in her homeland. “I did carry on designing even after I moved out, and when I would visit Kolkata, or Murshidabad, where I spent my formative years, I would explore the stitching process here, talk to people, and it was kind of a parallel process. And though it has been a passion for many years, it became passion with a purpose, four years back, when I started EthnikYarn,” says Guha, who spent most of her childhood in Murshidabad, which is often recognised as the silk capital of Bengal.

<em>White kantha on red silk</em>
White kantha on red silk

EthnikYarn uses only locally-sourced fabrics for their hand-embroidered creations. Creating a marketspace for the local weavers has always been a priority for Guha. “At the beginning there were only a handful of weavers with whom I started work, and I was somewhat nervous to start it. Mainly because,  it was about recognising their work. But I knew I am willing to hold their hands, and earn them their dues. I have to of course say, how extremely skilled and masterful they are at what they do,” reveals Guha, who launched her Spring/Summer collection at The Z's Precinct in Dover Lane earlier this month.

<em>Contemporary kantha by Kasturi Guha</em>
Contemporary kantha by Kasturi Guha

“We work with age-old techniques like kantha, aari, handblocks, hand embroidery and our signature handbatiks. One of our biggest aims is to preserve these crafts and bring the next generation to the sustainable fashion continuum. Presently we are working with 4 clusters,  Hand Batik, Kantha, Jamdani and Khadi,” says Guha, who has presented EthnikYarn scarves to the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie, at an event in Vancouver four years back.

If you’ve seen the label’s hand batik saris, khadi jackets or even the embroidered crop tops, you’ll see how seamlessly Guha’s brand connects the rich heritage of the Bengal weave with the millennial need for individualistic statements. Guha insists that the key is to prioritise the medium and the fabric, and then think about the design. “You know how you can never have good biryani, if you don’t have the right rice? This is the same, really. Thinking about the material, the texture,  working with the artisans, learning from them and of course charting something new, along with them is what keeps this going,” adds the designer.

<em>An embroidered kantha ensemble by Kasturi Guha</em>
An embroidered kantha ensemble by Kasturi Guha

Guha’s label also wants to draw your attention to how critical design development is to her creative process. Guha herself worked as a designer and illustrator at a city firm, before she moved to Canada with her husband. “One of our strengths is design innovation; to be relevant to the generation, harnessing more engagement and creating one of a kind quality products. We do not do fast fashion, we believe in slow, organic progress which is natural. Currently, we are working with natural dye, muslin revival and our ongoing mission of promoting khadi,” we are told.

EthnikYarn’s saris start from Rs 4,000 onwards and the blouses start from Rs 2,500 onwards. For details, look up the label’s Facebook page.

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