Anavila Misra takes inspiration from mud for her latest collection Dabu

Dabu, which Anavila Misra showcased at the recently concluded Lakmé Fashion Week X FDCI, pays homage to this ancient mud-resist hand block printing technique from Rajasthan.
(L-R) Konkona, Mandira & Sonali in Anavila Misra
(L-R) Konkona, Mandira & Sonali in Anavila Misra

Anavila Misra’s eponymous label’s latest collection Dabu which she showcased at the recently concluded Lakmé Fashion Week X FDCI pays homage to this ancient mud-resist hand block printing technique from Rajasthan. “Dabu plays a magical role in the repertoire of saris that are part of the collection, the length of the textile serving as a perfect canvas for ancient storytelling. This collection is in essence a play of the 6 yards and how much it can be manipulated with volume. Not bound by modern accouterments of style zippers, buttons or belts, the sari, uncut and unstitched fabric, speckled by Dabu motifs, flows into the vessel that is the body. The sari becomes the fabric of life,” tells Anavila.

Throughout the collection, she has used the natural dyes of ivory, ochre, sage green, indigo, madder, kashish and black with a luxurious presence of gold and silver- gently washed out by the sun. The fluid florals and architectural geometry in the motifs are derived from the natural surroundings of local flora and fauna. Sometimes, like our lives, the mud paste cracks and leaks, creating a distinctive vein-like effect, a perfect example of Wabi Sabi- the beauty of the imperfections of the hand. The artistry lies in the twisting, knotting, and layering of the drapes which gives each garment its unique shape and silhouette,” she further explains.

What's the inspiration behind this collection?

The collection is inspired by Dabu, which comes from the Hindi word dabana or press. It is very labour-intensive and involves several stages of printing and dyeing. A deeply sustainable practice, it honours local resources like mud, gum, lime and waste wheat chaff, and completely relies on nature’s bounty.

What inspired me most about the craft is that it creates beauty through mud. This collection brings forth the relationship between not only the art and the artisan, but also a deep, symbolic bond between human beings and the earth they live in. Mud teaches us that life begins from the ground up, that a tree does not grow from the leaves but from the roots embedded in mud. It is full of nurturing minerals that feed the soil and soul. Mud is our healer.

How differently has the sari been styled in your collection?

Traditionally, the drapes, knots and folds of saris were carefully constructed around the body in order to carry everyday things like money, coins and herbs. In this collection, these design nuances are recreated as emblems of exaggerated utility. Here you see the alluring contradiction in the sari- the very fluidity of it allows a sense of structure to thrive. It is a design that comes from intuition and self-awareness, allowing the sari to have a wonderful structure of stillness.

You love working with saris, can you elaborate on your love for the fabric? 

I have been in love with saris for as long as I remember. I would be awed by the beautiful Banarasis, Kanjeevarams and Dhakais in my mother's wardrobe. She would most generously lend those saris to me and my sisters for our school functions. We would role-play draped in beautiful saris, seldom conscious of the hand-woven beauty that surrounded us and my love for saris continues.

The new collection; Anavila Misra (right)
The new collection; Anavila Misra (right)

How do millennials perceive saris?

The models who wore my collection at LFW X FDCI were completely in love with the idea of creating new looks with a sari. Similarly, I hope millennials or GenZ embrace and understand it. I want them to realise that a sari isn’t fussy and non-functional. Once you open your mind, then, you can hear unique ways and unique ideas of wearing it.

How to accessorise a sari look?

The key to accessorizing a sari look is to strike a balance between your jewellery, hair accessories, handbag, footwear, and bindis. Don't overdo it with too many accessories, and always keep your personal style in mind while choosing your accessories.

Summer wardrobe essentials?

Comfortable clothes made from light, breathable fabrics and a pair of sunglasses.

What does sustainability mean for you in today's day and age?

I firmly believe that mindful creation leads to mindful consumption. The choice of raw material, the processes we follow and the engagement with the craft and artisan all make for sustainable practices. Sustainability for me starts with creating sustainable employment for the artisanal clusters we work with, to make sure we don't harm the environment we work in and our designs have longevity and value for the consumers.

What are your other upcoming collections?

We are in the process of slowing down, introspection and taking one step at a time.

Price on request. Available online.

Related Stories

No stories found.