These labels are championing local weaves and crafts, from Ilkal fabrics to Kasuti work

Rashmi Rajagopal Lobo Published :  02nd November 2018 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  02nd November 2018 12:00 AM

Moumi Moola and Preeti Bhutani, Taatini

There was something about Kasuti work, the folk embroidery technique of Karnataka, that made sisters Moumi Moola and Preeti Bhutani want to pair it with the weaves Assam, through their label Taatini. “We’re part Kannadiga and part Assamese, and we see Taatini as a way of bringing our diverse cultures together,” shares Moumi, who is based in Bengaluru. “We started conceptualising and researching in 2015. Today, we work with the Bodo, Mishing and Rabha tribes in Assam; Kasuti artists in Hubli and weavers in a village near Varanasi,” she adds. 

Vegetable-dyed eri stoles with kasuti
Eri stoles with Kasuti work

Eri silk and Kasuti might not seem like the ideal pairing, but Preeti, believes that they are a natural fit, as handwoven fabrics lend themselves well to the embroidery technique. “From a technical aspect, Kasuti works well on handwoven fabrics as the technique dictates that the warp and weft threads are first counted out to be able to do this kind of embroidery,” explains the designer and creative head, who looks after the label from Delhi. 

While the final product is nothing short of genius, it took a lot of hard work to get the look they had in mind. Preeti recalls endless hours spent perfecting the fabrics’ density and then experimenting with the right dyes that would do justice to both the weave and the embroidery. “Initially, there was a lot of trial and error, to get the correct density of fabric that would best showcase Kasuti as well as the Eri fabric. The type of natural dyes used also played their part, as some dyes made the yarns stick together making it difficult for the embroiderers to work on,” reveals Preeti who has a masters in handwoven fabrics and a diploma in textile design. 

The duo is currently working with a cross section of weaving clusters and craft communities across India, but they hope to do their bit to revive Ilkal saris and Hase Chitra, a traditional wall decoration art form done with dyes made with different soils and vegetable dyes.


Nikitha Satish, Dori Designs

NOSTALGIA and travel serve as inspirations for Nikitha Satish who started Dori Designs four years ago. But it is the weaves of local handlooms in and around Dharwad, where she grew up, that really spoke to her and led her down the path of reviving forgotten textiles. “I was fascinated with fashion since I was 13. I knew I wanted to design and got myself a degree and a diploma in fashion. After working for an ethnic brand for two years, I wanted to start something on my own. During my research, the diversity and history of traditional textiles amazed me and I decided to work with Indian textiles,” shares Nikitha. 

Orange crop shirt and Green culottes
Crop shirt and culottes made from Ilkal fabric

The pret line mainly uses Ilkal fabrics sourced from Amingad in Bagalkot district, but she also mixes things up with natural-dyed handwoven cotton from Charaka, a women’s co-operative society, in Heggodu. While her aesthetic is minimal, she does employ Kasuti embroidery to add a design element to her garments. The embroidery is done by a Dharwad- based NGO called KaiKrafts. “Kasuti is very intricate and time consuming. 

Hence it’s not as commercialised as some of the other embroideries of India. KaiKrafts trains women and also helps them become financially independent,” explains Nikitha, who recently launched a capsule collection called Anne, made with the cotton sourced from Charaka. “The clothes are all pastels and it is a basic edit in terms of silhouette and patterns. It is inspired by the early ’40s’ laid-back style,” she shares. 


Janhavi Kulkarni, Kale Nele 

DHARWAD native, Janhavi Kulkarni felt that there was a need to shine light on the weaves of Karnataka, especially when the fabrics of neighbouring states like Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala were being celebrated not just in India but across the world. This was back in 2012. “As a qualified textile designer, I wanted to do something to revive our local weaves,” says Bengaluru-based Janhavi, who runs Kale Nele, a brand that is dedicated to Karnataka crafts. 

Khunn dupatta
Dupatta made from Khunn fabric

A product of Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thacker-sey Women’s University, Mumbai, Janhavi moved to Bengaluru and worked with an export house and handloom home decor store before setting up on her own. “I started Kale Nele with a team of two, and now we have grown to 12 and we also have numerous weavers and craft clusters under our wings,” shares Janhavi. Weaves are sourced from Northern Karnataka, from pockets such as Ilkal, Guledgud, Gadag and Bethigere. The fabrics are then sent to villages in and around Dharwad where they are embroidered with Kasuti work by local craftswomen. Once this is done, they are sent to her studio in Bengaluru where they are turned into garments, dupattas, stoles, accessories and home furnishings.

While Ilkal is one of the main weaves she works with, Janhavi is also known for her experimentation with the Khunn fabric, a cotton weave traditionally used to make blouses. At Kale Nele, Khunn is woven into saris, thanks to Janhavi’s decision to increase the width of the looms. Besides saris, it is also turned into dupattas. Janhavi’s studio also focuses on crafts like gubbi-making, an old Karnataka tradition where sparrows fashioned out of cloth were used to make mobiles for babies’ cradles. While cottons have been her focus up until now, she plans to work with the silk weavers of Doddaballapur soon.