Designer Archana Jaju’s latest collection, Revival, draws its inspiration from red-crowned cranes, a bird that is symbolic of grace and beauty. Focusing on the alarmingly low numbers that the species were at in early-2000 to now, Archana has taken the story of their resurgence and turned it into a collection that celebrates colours, designs and local art forms. We caught up with the designer ahead of her launch (on Friday) to get a sneak peek into her line.
Designer Archana Jaju
ELLE: Tell us about the mood board for the collection?
Archana Jaju (AJ): Embracing the beauty of nature, Revival’21 unleashes a classic blend of Indian textiles with a fiercely feminine touch to it. It takes inspiration from the contrasting colours and minimalistic forms present in the surroundings around us. It also symbolises the red-crowned cranes, a bird species which is essentially known for its grace and beauty. The collection comes with intricate embroidery details, a tranquil colour palette and embellishments in the form of threads, sequins and mirror work. The idea is to create pieces of elegance and exuberance, mirroring these graceful birds.
ELLE: What are some of the key trends to watch out for?
AJ: Trends have never really been my sole focus. My collection encompasses a combination of simplicity and luxury. The pandemic has created a paradigm shift towards creating silhouettes that are driven by comfort and are functional. This collection, too, is based on including comfortable silhouettes which align with the current mindset of people who are looking for wearability in fashion.
Speaking of trends, I also strongly believe that classics are the new trend, with more and more people opting for pieces that will never go out of style. I feel this is a call for refreshing the classic pieces back again.
ELLE: What is the one thing that you are very excited about in this collection?
AJ: Kalamkari is an art form that is very close to my heart and has been a part of a number of my collections. I am really excited to see how people react to this modern rendition of the traditional Kalamkari fabrics. Along with this, the colour palette is also intriguing as it consists of earthy pastels and the inseparable connection with nature which is established through the use of natural dyes. I have also experimented with a lot of new shades through this collection which has made it possible to create a stronger association with the mood of this collection.
ELLE: Homegrown and sustainability have become the buzzwords, more so in the last year. How are you supporting that narrative?
AJ: The pandemic has made the fashion industry come to grips with the unthinkable. While fashion’s association with sustainability has journeyed a long time, the pandemic has amplified this further. For me, it has been something I believe in, even before it became a trend. It lies at the core of my brand, and our goal to achieve it has always revolved around promoting the Indian artisans and embracing the original techniques used to make the fabrics.
Working with artisans from 17 different craft clusters across India, my brand is focused on bringing India’s fine craftsmanship into everyday clothing. A few of these crafts include Kalamkari from Sri Kalahasti in South India, Bandhani from Kutch, Lucknowi from Lucknow, ParsiGara from the remote interiors of Bengal, Khadi from Srikakulam, Venkatgiri, Kanjeevarams from Chennai and Benarasis from Varanasi. The process, in turn, has also helped in providing livelihoods to around 200 families. Among this variety of crafts used, the age-old tradition of Kalamkari is the core of the brand, which primarily makes use of earthy colours like indigo, mustard, black and green, all of which are extracted from natural sources. For instance, for achieving the colour black, jaggery is blended with water and iron filings, which is utilised primarily to outline the sketches. When it comes to mustard or yellow, it is obtained by boiling pomegranate peels, and hues of red are created from the bark of madder or algirin. Furthermore, blue is derived from indigo itself and green is acquired by mixing yellow and blue together. Being extracted from absolutely natural sources, there is no use of chemicals and artificial matter.
My label aims at redefining Indian handloom by fitting it into a rather contemporary frame with exquisite craftsmanship and attention to detail. This involves the incorporation of sustainability at every given step of the process. Our focus lies in developing finely crafted products by our skilled artisans. We aim at reducing our overall impact on the environment through our process, which includes the use of organic dyes, hand-painted work and handwoven fabrics, which ensure sustainability.
ELLE: How has the pandemic affected your design sensibilities?
AJ: For more than a year now, we have existed in a world where isolation and social distancing have become synonymous with our lifestyles. It has definitely been a challenge for everyone in some way or the other, but it has also taught us to move forward irrespective of our obstacles. I have always prioritised the client’s needs over the ongoing trends, and this idea has become stronger in these tough times. The pandemic has also been an immense source of inspiration in the creation of more comfortable yet stylish silhouettes. While I recognise this as progress, there is also room for a lot of experimentation to create designs that align with the sensibilities of the current world we live in.
Swipe for a look at the collection.