Making cotton aspirational

Understated elegance has been her leitmotif throughout her two decades in fashion. Deepika Govind’s forte is apparent not only when it comes to weaving magic on fabric but also when it comes to making her choices over food. A frugal eater, she is a vegetarian as it helps her stay in her comfort zone. Even the ubiquitous paneer, the stable diet of most veggies, is out of her diet as she is trying to be a vegan.

Known for her deep understanding of Indian textiles, Deepika is equally perceptive about world cuisine. From Burmeese to Mexican, she has tasted it all. This comes in handy because we are at the newly opened Piali The Curry Bistro restaurant in Connaught Place, which boasts of 40 curry dishes from across the globe.

Ordering Mulligatawny soup after meticulously scanning the menu, Deepika – who shuttles between Delhi and Bangalore to fulfil her fashion obligations says: “I genuinely feel like a vegan; my work is also like that. Sometimes I take milk as I have calcium deficiency.”

Deepika agrees understatement is her unique selling point. “Every designer needs to know what it means to edit. When you make design remove what is extra that clutters the concept of design. Design should speak strongly in one language. There should not be too many things that distract the vision of a designer.”

Like fancy looking dishes on cookery shows which have multiple ingredients? “Yes, similar to that. It is important to be singular and what the wearer wants to experience. When prospective brides ask me to do heavily embroidered stuff, I guide them what will work for their complexion and personality. I do embroidery where it is needed.”

Gingerly sipping the soup and taking tiny bites of corn tempura, Deepika says Indian fashion needs to have its own brand identity. “At the moment it has too many individuals but they do not have a cohesive vision on how to take fashion forward. It is important for designer to move backwards and go back to their roots. Like one young designer in Delhi recently went to her roots in Ladakh to showcase her collection. I am from the South; I keep going back there even though I work all over the country. It is important to work in villages, where we can educate them about the importance of manufacturing…this is the market forecast; this is what clients wants.”“

Creating a tourist textile community, where people can live and work, is in the offing. “It will be a place where tourists can experience how extra shuttle loom works, what is the process of textile. A place where hand spun yarn making techniques like indigo dying, organic dying art of hand painting, process of kalamkari and looms weaving different fabrics can be shown. Like in Spain people go to see glass painting. Similarly we need to showcase our craft and heritage to tourists. The backward link would take us to a new era of design where we showcase our heritage to the rest of the world. We need to show how we used to make scarves for Arab traders.”

For Deepika the cause is more important than those who are part of it. Taking a backseat as a designer, she is curating Neel Sutra, a concept store highlighting the talent of weavers, in Gurgaon. “Neel is the blue gold which India traded and sutra is thread that binds it. Essentially the store connects weavers, crafts persons and like-minded designers. We identify with the concept to promote cotton. In my heart cotton has always occupied a special place. Look our cotton farmers are killing themselves. Technically, we lose as MNCs grow their own seedlings. “

Making cotton an essential fabric for all Indians, is her goal. “We have expansive variety. Cotton in every State has its own feel and structure. Fashion gives higher value to cotton. Problem is cotton is not seen as aspirational. Why cannot youngsters ask we want the best cotton shirt, which is stylised? They usually aspire for silk and wool except in summers. We need to educate the youth on how wearing cotton supports weaving community and is good for their skin. Fabric with polyester is pernicious for the skin. Shirts which have labels indicating 80 to 100 per cent of cotton need to be promoted. This would lead to growth and manufacturing of cotton.”

Deepika is focusing on looms. “Right now, I am working on looms of Assam. The public needs to see how the shuttle loom works. I have worked on varied looms like pit loom, extra shuttle loom, dobby and jacquard looms. It is a beautiful experience to see your design come alive.”

A sense of disillusionment with the mechanical and commercial way the design fraternity works is apparent in the tone of Deepika, who is not at all interested in adding volumes to diversify her brand. She does not want to compromise on her principle of creating outfits which have at least 80 per cent hand woven fabric. “Handloom cannot be perfect; there are bound to be variations. We cannot have uniformity in 10,000 meters of the same fabric. Some designers insist on this, not realising that this is the beauty of handloom and uniformity means killing our cottage industries. I am not against introducing machine based fabric as far as upholstery is concerned but when it comes to outfits we need to think what would happen to remote regions, where livelihood of weavers is dependent on the work we do,” says Deepika.

Peeping out of the window, while eating Burmese khao suey, she praises Connaught Place for its Georgian architecture. “It has layered pillars and is the cultural hot spot. I come here to take a walk on Baba Kharak Singh Marg where State emporiums and khadi shop are located.”

She reminds me that my laal michka chicken tikka is getting cold but our conversation is so absorbing than the temptation of food can be resisted. We happily dig into pineapple halwa for dessert.See more at:simple formal dresses | formal wear sydney