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Ikkat of Odisha piques the curiosity of NIFT designers!

I am Reshma – a strand of silk yarn and you will find me in the Ikkat Kurti that you are wearing.  

My soul mate is a shy, soft- spoken but cool gal called Sooti – a strand of cotton yarn in your cotton Ikkat Kurti. But I never call her that. I call her Shruti because I believe that both of us together create a melodious melody on our Ikkat handlooms.

Thanks to ecommerce portals like the classystreet.com and the NIFT designers Ikkat Kurtis are in great demand all around the globe.

Both Shruti and I, Reshma are worked upon with a lot of love, care, skill and passion and patience. The texture may be different but the effort invested in creating the Ikkat material is what makes us stand apart from other handloom crafted material.

Here are some basic facts about Ikkat that will help us understand the fine delicate nuances of the story that we spin on a daily basis.

Several silk or cotton yarns like me are harnessed uniformly on the warp and sometimes the weft sides of the looms.

Unlike other handloom crafted material, Shruti and I – Reshma – are not dyed completely or uniformly.

Several yarn strands are first clipped together at specific places to create a design that is visualized mentally and emotionally by our artisan friends.

A patch of cloth is placed over all the strands of yarn that are clipped together. The cloth absorbs the dye and transfers it to yarn strands like Shruti and me – Reshma.

This process is called resist dyeing.

The entire tying and dyeing process takes place in eight stages.

The dyed warp yarn strands are then woven together to create the Ikkat material.

Shruti and I- Reshma belong to a tribal clan of Sambalpur in Odisha who are maestros of Ikkat designs.

We are held in high esteem because we create curvilinear intricate Ikkat designs with specific colours.

Only the tribal folks inhabiting the eastern and western region of Odisha create such Ikkat patterns.

We do not look so great with the first dye colour that we imbibe. But our artisans know what they are doing. They add layers and layers of other complementary colours after allowing us to dry out and the final impact is simply superbly stunning.

When the weft yarn strands undergo the same treatment, we have double ikkat material.

Double Ikkat material will have the same pattern on the front and the back sides –which is why it is so unique and classy to look at.

In our home town Odisha, our artisans prefer to use specific traditional colours like white, black, yellow, red and green. Our weaver friends have a deep rooted belief that these colours represent our past, present, future, our Vedas and our Gods respectively.

Rudraksh beads, temple towers, birds, animals, geometric designs, dice and anything and everything related to our culture is represented in the fabrics that we craft.

In fact, some Ikkat yarns like me – Reshma are woven together to create the hymns of the Geet Govind in them and this material is specially crafted to adorn the idol of Lord Jagannath itself.

Needless to add, Ikkat cotton and silk sarees are also in great demand around the world.

But my story and Shruti’s story is not over yet……

The designs in Ikkat patterns are hazy, blurry and simply blend together seamlessly with the rest of the luxurious material that we create.

That – most people believe is a typical aspect and feature of Ikkat.

Shruti and I often have these silent dialogues when the loom is finally harnessed for the day.

It takes nine months for a baby to be born out of a mother’s womb.

It takes seven months for an Ikkat saree to be crafted by two artisans.

Small wonder then, that we are such priceless commodities in the market.

We stand on the brink of transformation now.

A casual sit down discussion is taking place right now in Shruti’s loom shed.

Samaira is our spokesperson. She works with an ecommerce portal called classystreet.com and passed out of NIFT a year back. She is hosting a workshop for the current batch of NIFT students.

All these students were given a real life experience in our looms. Samaira touches us and caresses us with such gentility.

She has a lot of regard for the artisans who work on us.

Suruchi and Shiroman have faced a lot of tough times in their life.

There were no takers for the sarees that they so lovingly laboured over for seven months of their life. Often they were paid a pittance for their effort.

Why do we assume that only the designs and the motifs on the Ikkat sarees are blurred?

Samaira gave them a glimpse of Suruchi’s life where the minute she finished her backbreaking domestic work, she would willingly, eagerly and passionately get around to working on the intricate pattern on the loom.

Often Shiroman, her husband, would work well past midnight so that Suruchi could take a break in the afternoons.

The tiny beads of sweat on Shiroman’s forehead glistened by the moonlight.  

Shrioman, Shruti and I – Reshma have witnessed – oh so heartbreakingly often – the steady stream of silent tears that flowed out of Suruchi’s eyes…..

There were so many Shiromans and Suruchis awaiting – patiently awaiting – the day when their efforts would be recognized.

Every loom shed had a similar yet somewhat different story to tell.

That is what I want all of you to understand – said Samaira to the batch of students who was listening to her story in rapt attention.

Fashion designing does not mean simply piecing together garments of different textures and colours. Fashion designing does not simply mean different cuts to suit the shape of the body. Fashion designing means understanding and unearthing the story – the history, the geography and the story of the loom, the artisan who weaves the cloth and the passion that drives him or her to keep at it.

 Any questions? Any ideas? Any suggestions? Asked Samaira.

The double Ikkat concept Samaira….could we craft unique kurtis with that kind of exquisite material? Asked Juhi.

We could then wear it with a pair of jeans or leggings too. We could work on the designs with Suruchi to create snazzy patterns using the traditional colours!

Can we experiment with different dye colours Suruchi? Asked Asha.

The entire batch of NIFT students was engrossed at recreating Ikkat kurtis at the grass root level.

They touched Shruti and me – Reshma reverentially. They realized that we were the source of sustenance for the Ikkat craftsmen. The bond had been forged. They were now a part of our souls and together we would create smaller motifs, different patterns and motifs using different dyes to create spellbinding Ikkat kurtis.

The message will undoubtedly be conveyed – but subtly, gently and lovingly…..

We – at classystreet.com don’t sell clothes……..we sell a chunk of tribal woman’s life and skill to you.

We at clasystreet.com portray, project and showcase the effort, the toil, the sweat, the skill, the labour intensive craft and the faith of people like Suruchi, Reshma and Shruti and Samaira through our Ikkat Kurtis.

Buying a Ikkat Kurti at classystreet.com……….means you are giving some solace to a tribal woman’s soul who continues to live with hope in her heart!

We, at classystreet.com are doing our best to turn around as many lives as we can………we can do so only with your unstinting support! Wearing an Ikkat Kurti that you buy at classystreet.com means you are ready to forge a magical bond with some Suruchi of Odisha. Let us know when you experience the charming magic for yourself!

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