Text by Avani Thakkar
Even if you’re not up to date with the A – Z of designers, certain names would probably pop up instinctively if you were asked about the metamorphosis of the Indian fashion scene. David Abraham and Rakesh Thakore of Abraham & Thakore are prime examples. The two National Institute of Design (NID) graduates joined hands in 1992 to build an eponymous label that continues to dominate the conversation around local textiles and craftsmanship; their multi-disciplinary approach to designing garments for the urban Indian consumer has played a key role in shaping a modern aesthetic that is forward-looking yet deeply connected to our history. And the duo’s sustainable showcase that was unveiled on Day 3 – aka Sustainable Fashion Day (read our two cents on the subject here) – of FDCI X Lakmé Fashion Week further cemented that influence.
Featuring a variety of looks incorporating R|Elan’s (a Reliance Industries-owned textile manufacturer) “GreenGold” eco-friendly fabric made from recycled PET bottles (polyethylene terephthalate, a type of plastic), the designers definitely understood the assignment but made it their own. Fittingly, their chosen showstopper was actor and environmental advocate Dia Mirza, who stunned in an eye-catching, abstract-patterned kaftan.
While keeping with the pandemic’s unanimous comfort-reigns-supreme dress code, Abraham & Thakore’s dynamic collection catered to a spectrum of conflicting sartorial “moods”. Craving relaxed fits minus the slouchy silhouette? An array of nonchalantly stylish shift dresses, tunics, kimono-like outerwear and loose-fitting pants are at your service. Looking to dress à la mode but still feel like you’re lounging in sweatpants? Take your pick from their candescent pantsuits that are expertly tailored to flow over the body rather than cling to it in all the wrong places. Or channel classic yet edgy glamour in one of their shimmery black-and-white saris worked with sequins hand-cut from old X-ray films.
“We looked at traditional textile solutions to upcycling and recycling such as patchwork, appliqué and kantha to provide us with a design language for this collection. We like the styles that are made from fabric remnants and offcuts that are hand stitched together,” the pair elaborates.
Hues of burgundy, olive green, rusty orange, brown and deep purple saturated the fabrics, while pops of red and glossy sequin work stood out against this backdrop of autumnal colours. Stacked glass bangles shone on the models’ wrists, and chunky platform sandals were paired with vibrantly coloured socks – the perfectly fun finishing touches. While simple slicked-back hair and smudged-kohl eye make-up allowed the garments and accessories to do all the talking.
FDCI X Lakmé Fashion Week might dedicate only a day to celebrate sustainability in fashion, but Abraham & Thakore is among the few brands that treat it as a year-round affair. “Sustainability involves adopting practices that can help to reduce man’s negative impact on the environment. It means using resources mindfully,” say the founders, who earlier also collaborated with the Austria-based Lenzing Group to highlight the sustainable Lenzing Ecovero fabric in their Lakmé Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2019 showcase.
While the designers are optimistic about the Indian fashion industry’s recognisable progress over the last few decades, they are of the opinion that much is still left to accomplish as far as achieving a fully sustainable model, which requires the participation of both industry members as well as consumers. “Many Indian fashion designers utilise low-impact crafts, which benefit the small-scale sector, but we think the large mass-market brands can do more in this space,” they explain.
And so, while events highlighting environmentally friendly style come and go, Abraham & Thakore’s principles of slow living and minimalism as well as their focus on preserving handloom fabrics remain constant, and we look forward to the next leg of their journey.
In a quick interview with Verve, following their show, the duo reiterates their commitment to the future of clean fashion….
What have been some of the other sustainable fabrics and practices that you have been using through the decades; when did this awareness dawn and why?
Right from the launch of our brand, we have believed in traditional craft, small-scale production and natural fibres. Our philosophy makes us mindful of the interrelationships and interdependencies between all the aspects of the fashion ecosystem. While we strongly advocate new ways of seeing and doing, we’ve always believed that we also have much to learn from traditional wisdom. From the beautiful kantha fabrics of West Bengal to the complex patchwork quilts of Gujarat that provided us with study material, the creative recycling of Indian fabrics to create new products has shaped our perspectives towards design.
How do you practise sustainability in your day-to-day lives?
It is simply not cool to disrespect our resources and waste them. In our day-to-day lives we try to practise a frugal approach to consumption, whether it is connected to our energy resources or consumer products. Mindless consumption and irresponsible production have to be checked. We are tiny players, but we believe that every individual attempt to address this problem is very important and can eventually affect change.
You have mentioned that large mass-market brands can do more in the space of sustainability. Could you elaborate on this?
We believe that they [mass brands] cannot keep reducing prices to drive consumption, as this hits the supply chain and exploits workers. Most garment production is situated in less developed economies to feed the needs of the developed world. This is not one country’s problem; it involves the entire fashion ecosystem. To keep growing, the industry relentlessly promotes higher and higher levels of consumption. It’s time for us to sit back and reassess.
What are your thoughts on post-pandemic dressing, particularly with regard to Indian consumers?
During the pandemic, we all adopted a more relaxed attitude towards dressing, with an emphasis on comfort. We also realised that we needed less. At the same time, we’re thrilled to be heading towards normalcy and social interaction and dressing up again. So, fashion is still important, but we hope that consumers are more mindful of their purchases now.
We would love to know more about the techniques used in the collections such as the hand-cut sequins using old X-ray films.
We were interested in introducing glamour and sparkle into the collection. It seemed appropriate after this very dark period we’ve been through. So, we sourced waste PET sheets and materials from kabadi dealers as well as old, discarded X-rays from dealers in hospital waste and had them hand cut into sequins. Another technique we employed for some designs was to reuse all the waste fabric remnants left after cutting a garment and then using the offcuts to appliqué onto other garments allowing them to create another design.
What was it like working with the sustainable fabric “Greengold”?
R|Elan fabrics drape well and feel good; they are versatile and lent themselves to our designs with ease. Fabrics made from the recycling of PET and all other materials will have to become a much larger part of the fashion ecosystem in the future.