AAPI designers bring traditional design to modern fashion

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Tell me a bit about yourself and your brand. How did you come to fashion design and what were your first inspirations?

Growing up, I loved shopping for fabrics on our family trips to India and was fascinated by the process of making bespoke garments – choosing a fabric and silhouette and taking it to the tailor, embroiderer, etc. I studied visual arts in college and often incorporated fabric, hand embroidery and beadwork into my paintings, which led me to study textile design. Learning to weave, turn fiber into yarn, dye fabric, and even create homemade natural dyes then served as the foundation for all the custom textile development work I now do for my line. My heritage, the different forms of traditional Indian clothing and the way I saw people wearing bright, saturated colors and embellishments in my home has always been something that really inspired me as a designer and as a designer. ‘artist. The obsession with color is something that unites my design and visual art work.

How does your Indian heritage play a role in your design process and inspiration?

I started Abacaxi because I wanted to work with so many traditional Indian handmade and handmade textile techniques – many of which are in danger of disappearing -[and bring them] in contemporary fashion and our daily lives. I have always been fascinated by the breadth of the different embroideries, types of weaves and intricate bead shapes that were possible in India, and this remains one of the main inspiration points for my work today. There are so many regional and local heritage processes that I want to explore. Even after designing several collections over the years, I feel like I’m just getting started and just scratching the surface. The kaleidoscope of possibilities is so rich here.

What traditional Indian practices and techniques do you use when producing your collections for Abacaxi?

I have designed with hand woven fabrics such as ikat (when the warp or vertical threads are resistance dyed) and mashru (a beautiful type of weaving from Gujarat where shiny silk shows on the face of the fabric while the cotton brushes the skin inside). This season in my Stingray collection, which is available now for Spring/Summer 2022, I worked with skilled weavers in Tamil Nadu, India to create a custom yarn-dyed throw with four colors of yarn-dyed yarn. different plants and small rainbow stripes. Lurex. The result turned out brilliantly. This is a color-block design with an extra wide chain with no repeat banding on the chain. I intentionally designed it with overlays so you can see several different color shades with just four thread colors. In fact, I just visited the weavers there last month, and they said it was the hardest design they’ve ever had to do.

Some of the traditional embroideries I have worked with are shisha (mirror work), phulkari (Punjab silk thread embroidery), ari work, eyelet embroidery and zari. Another important one is tie-dye techniques. I recently launched a new website for Abacaxi, and now you can explore each of these techniques, view videos and photos of the processes, meet the makers, and even shop by textile technique or collection concept.

Another traditional Indian practice that I’m proud to say we work with is actually the ancient method of cotton cultivation, also known as regenerative cotton cultivation, through a partnership with Oshadi. Our future productions of cotton fabrics will use this farmed fiber, and we are also incorporating more and more natural dyeing processes from India.

How did you discover these practices and techniques?

I had no formal training in Indian textile techniques, but I realized that I learned a lot from my mother and other family members. I think the knowledge of textiles was passed on to me. My mother was always very picky about the type of fabric she wore, and when we were having traditional outfits made for weddings in India, I learned about some of the different types of embellishments. Then, due to my passion and interest in the subject, I did a lot of research on my own. I am grateful that I was able to travel not only to parts of India, but to several different places around the world in search of handmade textiles.

What does it mean to you to be able to bring these traditional Indian practices and designs to new audiences with your work?

This is very meaningful to me and obviously very meaningful and valuable to the makers – the weavers, artisans, cutters, sewers and all the people behind our productions in India. The work has a strong impact, and when you buy one of our pieces, you are not only getting a quality handmade garment, but [you] also accompany the makers who perpetuate an ancestral tradition. Every transaction has a meaning by giving value to the work.

How do you modernize more traditional practices by incorporating them into Abacaxi’s collections?

An example is my use of shisha work or mirror work. It is an embroidery technique using small, usually round mirrors that are embedded in the embroidery, traditionally from Rajasthan and Gujarat. Often you will see shisha in wall hangings or on very typical tunics or kurtas. My idea was to do it on a ribbed jersey fabric, and I added hand beaded fringes for a 3D effect. I have a set of knit shisha shrugs, dresses with a line of mirrors down the front, and now a shisha purse. I think seeing this technique on a stretchy knit instead of a stiff cotton is a way to modernize it or incorporate it into a more everyday contemporary outfit.

Another great example is the custom Stingray color block weave I mentioned. Yarn dyed plaids and striped cottons are very typical of South India – madras plaids are probably the best known example – but my take was to create a wide, color-blocked warp pattern that is totally different on one side than on the other. , thus bringing this traditional technique of the loom to another level from a graphic and conceptual point of view.

Often in my design process, I start with the techniques and fabrics I want to use, and the inspiration or concept for the collection pops up, and I design the textiles and put together the palette and the sketches. Thus, the techniques themselves are often the basis of the inspiration.

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