Caring for the crafts: Archana Jaju’s collection Hastkala brings hand-painted Kalamkari on Indian

Hyderabad-based Archana uses fabric as a medium to convey culture and tradition.
From Hastkala
From Hastkala

Hyderabad is a city with a rich heritage of age-old crafts, including pearl embroidery, intricate zari work, and handloom traditions like the famous Pochampally Ikat and colourful Kalamkari designs. Over time, designers from the city have revived these traditional sartorial practices with new collections. One such connoisseur is Archana Jaju, who is a whiz in showcasing the glorious crafts of the city. As a high-end fashion designer from a renowned textile family that was the first to weave Chanderi handloom in India, Archana uses fabric as a medium to convey culture and tradition.

Kalamkari kurta
Kalamkari kurta

Her latest collection, Hastkala, showcases ensembles featuring the brand’s signature Kalamkari designs, handcrafted to perfection. When asked about the inspiration behind the collection, the designer tells us, “Hastkala is a carefully curated collection of our handpainted Kalamkari designs, incorporated on various handloom textiles and different cutwork embroidery placements. I took inspiration from nature. The designs incorporate new elements which comprise animal motifs like giraffes, elephants, tortoises and deer, along with botanicals like palm and pine trees. They symbolise guidance, leadership, luck, prosperity, wisdom and knowledge.”

Embroidered sari
Embroidered sari

The edit showcases a range of festive and traditional ensembles, including a Kalamkari sari adorned with floral motifs, a hand-painted and hand-woven Kanchi dupatta and kurta set, a Kalamkari sari featuring detailed zardosi work, paired with an aari and sequin cutwork bralette that glimmers in the spotlight and more. In addition, the designer has also experimented with fusion wear ensembles such as a highwaist palazzo Kalamkari pant set paired with a V-neck cutwork blouse and accessorised with a hand-embroidered aari belt, as well as a hand-painted tropical design cape that can be draped over co-ords.

Muted colours
Muted colours

Archana’s passion for age-old crafts was encouraged by her fatherin-law, who supported her in learning about various crafts, handloom techniques, and traditional craftsmanship. After two decades of hard work and experimentation, she launched her own brand in 1996, which has since redefined fashion by placing crafts such as Kalamkari at its centre.

Sari from Hastkala
Sari from Hastkala

For those who may not be familiar, Kalamkari is a type of hand-painting or hand-blocking technique that originated in the Machilipatnam region of Andhra Pradesh. The craft is known for its vibrant colours, often depicting scenes from fables, legends, and nature, which can be seen in the ensembles featured in Hastkala. Elaborating more on the alluring craft, Archana shares, “The process of Kalamkari — ‘pen worked’ designs is achieved with hand painting on fabrics. In this collection, we have used hand-woven lightweight silk organza and elegant kanchi silk as our canvas. The colours are our signature earthy tones like mustard and rose that are dyed using vegetables. Further, Hyderabad is known for its artisan culture, and all our embellishments like thread embroidery, zardosi and aari cutworks are done by our skilled artisans from the city for all collections including this one.”

Silk organza kurta
Silk organza kurta

The collection mostly has Indian wear pieces. But since people’s preferences for traditional wear have evolved in recent years with more fuss-free and fusion attires on top of the list, we asked the designer if the category is here to stay or will go through revamp? She tells us, “Traditional wear is ever-green. However, it has evolved... it is not only about lehengas and saris now as people are interested in different variations. For example, how they drape a sari or dupatta or wear mixmatched colours and even accessorise it has changed a lot.”

Nature inspired motifs on sari
Nature inspired motifs on sari

While people’s tastes may vary from time to time, what stays in fashion is evergreen pieces and Archana agrees.“I have designed outfits and saris which are timeless heirloom pieces. However, with winds of change, we have reinvented ourselves in the field of textiles, developing new handloom products. While doing so, I try to stay deeply rooted in traditions while giving ensembles a modern interpretation.” She further comments on the city's fashion landscape, “Hyderabad, also called the City of Pearls, is a pleasant city to live in. I feel blessed to call it my home. The fashion landscape is phenomenal; there has been a growing demand for high-end labels. Many designers are noting it to be an important market to discover and are opening their stores in the city.”

Rs. 94,999 upwards. Available online and in stores.
Mail: priyamvada@newindianexpress.com
Twitter: @RanaPriyamvada

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