Evergreen fashion

Madhu Jain unleashes new possibilities in hand-woven bamboo silk ikat

For over a decade, veteran couturier Madhu Jain has been experimenting with bamboo by combining the fibres of the evergreen flowering plant with other existing yarns to create classy women’s wear outfits.

An exhibition featuring an eclectic mix of outfits from her maiden collection of bamboo silk ikat was inaugurated at Ogaan in Hauz Khas Village in Delhi by the Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi recently.

“For over 15 years I have been experimenting with developing the right quality of bamboo fibre that, when woven together with other natural fibres, has the tensile strength to stand up to the established yarns. Initially, my weavers just couldn’t get it right. We struggled to get evenness in the fibres from batch to batch. And because I didn’t want to compromise on the quality of our product, I waited all these years before I was confident of what we have achieved,” says Madhu, who has interpreted tie-dyed ikat weaving traditions of Indonesia, Uzbekistan, and India on bamboo-silk.

Asserting that the new product will be a forerunner in eco-fashion and sustainable production, Madhu says: “With India being the second-largest bamboo producing nation in the world, the potential of such a fabric is immense. I am confident that bamboo is the fabric of the future, because I have been able to successfully combine bamboo yarn with other existing yarns such as khadi, cotton, chanderi and wool.”

First of its kind

The exhibition has got fashion industry players talking as well. Kavita Bhartia of Ogaan says, “Madhu has experimented with Madhubani and taken Indian handicrafts to another level. For this exhibition she used ikat techniques from Indonesia and India. It is a mix of nice techniques and she has also styled it differently. After Madhu’s collection is showcased, it will be very easy for other designers to follow her.”

“As a designer I toyed with the idea of using bamboo silk, but discontinued it because I thought that it would be harsh on skin. It has now been given a new and more refined texture.”

Beaming with excitement at the quality of outfits on the mannequins, designer Raghavendra Rathore says, “Madhu has given bamboo incredible value. Craftsmanship on this is the most difficult thing. My job would now be to see how to introduce and popularise bamboo silk ikat in my upcoming institution. I will ask Madhu to conduct a class on the art of making this version of ikat. The trick is to process it and make it commercially viable.”

Designer and Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) president Sunil Sethi, says, “Converting bamboo into fabric is not new.

The innovation is in integrating bamboo with silk ikat, through fine weaving. It is an excellent effort in the story of sustainable textiles. You are not only creating a textile, but giving it longevity. This is design intervention in handloom as well as in weave.”

Summing up, Madhu says: “Textiles made with bamboo fibre are breathable, biodegradable and economical. When woven by hand, bamboo tends to look very rich. Machine-woven bamboo, on the other hand, feels synthetic.”

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