The Duality of the Kutch and its Magnificent Crafts

Since its inception, Varana has been about the re-imagination of artisanal techniques. Drawing on the deep crafts heritage of India and celebrating extraordinary textiles, Varana nods both forwards and backwards at the same time. Innovators instead of purists; re-invigorators as opposed to revivalists, Varana takes artisanal artistry and looks at it with an entirely new gaze.

For the 2018 Kutch collection, we have explored the rich and colourful crafts of the Kutch, a pristine salt desert in the Western Indian state of Gujarat. Varana’s Creative Director, Sujata Keshavan, talks about how she is reinventing some of India’s most traditional techniques, breaking rules and rethinking the modern wardrobe.

  • The Duality of the Kutch and its Magnificent Crafts
  • The Duality of the Kutch and its Magnificent Crafts

The Kutch collection follows on, of course, from the Taj collections SS17 and AW17. Where
do you find your inspiration and what was it for this collection?

I wanted to have a theme or a concept, that would drive each collection. The first was the Taj Mahal, so we used motifs that were inspired by the rich crafts of the Taj, like its inlay patterns and its architecture. We made use of embroidery techniques that came through the Mughals at the time. For the Taj, we designed two collections, Spring Summer 17 and Autumn Winter 17. For Kutch, we did the same. Kutch is an amazing area in India. Honestly, it’s just mind-boggling. There are all of these different tribes that settled there and each of them has different kinds of artisanal techniques that they practice.

Varana has never taken anything too literally. The focus has always been on translating tradition. Can you talk through your approach to reinvention for SS18?

We take our inspiration from the craft but it’s not that we’re just keeping it exactly as it was. We use the vocabulary, but we’ve reinterpreted the colours and reworked the fabrics. So, for example, the tie-and-dye technique of Bandhani has a very distinctive visual language that’s recognisable as soon as you see it. We took motifs from Bandhani and wove them in Jacquard. Its looks and feels different and excitingly unfamiliar – it’s much more sophisticated and fine.

We’ve also looked at the kind of mirror work embroidery that’s done a lot in the Ahir community in the Kutch. We’ve taken the mirror work and woven it into cashmere. No one’s ever done that before. We are breaking a lot of rules when it comes to textiles, so purists might have a problem with it. But that’s what really interests me. I think that there’s so much that’s already been done already – I want to find a new gaze and take it to a more modern level.

Where do you see styles from the Kutch collection fitting into the Varana woman’s wardrobe?

We like to be there as part of lots of different experiences for women. For example, we have light-weight cashmere – wonderful for travel. It’s beautiful, it’s warm, its soft. We have some exquisite evening pieces and then we also have the luxurious essentials like our Heavenly Shirts. Of course, everywhere in Varana, fabric is of the utmost importance and we’ve select only the best even for our everyday pieces. We have silk kimonos and pyjama style trousers that work beautifully as resort wear.

The AW18 Kutch collection is available in store at 14 Dover Street and online at  varanaworld.com

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