Blocks prints, as an Indian art form, dates back ages; some say even as far as the 12th century. Finding its feet through generations of artisans, it emerged as a prized Indian craft from villages across India and varied in style across states. Jaipur's Bagru, Andra Pradesh's Kalamkari and Gujarat's Ajrakh are some of the most popular ones. Fashion may have become increasingly mechanized with prints being churned out on computers but the love for block prints has never been greater than it is today. More and more consumers have become vocal for local handicrafts and block prints comes right on top of that list. Speaking to NDTV Swirlster is Vedika M Sonthalia. The fashion designer's pieces have definitely caught your eye with celebrities like Sonam Kapoor, Taapsee Pannu and Jacqueline Fernandez having worn her work and is renowned for its homegrown aesthetic and hand painted prints.
The fashion industry is reverting to garments with a personal touch; a phenomenon which is being witnessed across the world. It's no different for block printing too. "Block printing has always been a part of the history and culture of Indian fashion. Majorly in West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where it has been practised for generations," informs Vedika. The laborious work that involves applying patterns to fabric with blocks by hand has its own beauty that can inspire but never be substituted.
Block prints are Vedika M's signature touch and it's no surprise that they have a special place in the designer's heart. "I've grown up watching my grandmother and mother create prints at our family textile unit in Kolkata. Today, Vedika M (the label) continues to use this same technique. Using them, I've created different prints of various forms like abstract, floral and geometric prints," says the designer. Like a treasured box of jewels, block printing has been passed down from one generation to the next. Though modern culture threatens the age-old form, many Indian designers continue to work with and support artisans practising the craft.
Bringing the designs to life is one of the reasons why block printing is a cherished part of Vedika M. "The most exciting part of block printing for me is designing; from when we start working on the print to then carving it on a wooden block. It's such an interesting aspect of the entire process," says the designer. The next time you see a block printed kurta or salwar kameez, think about the effort, love and labour that goes into bringing it to life. Digital printing may be capable of creating scores of maxi dresses and palazzo pants with identical patterns but it could never replace the incredible charm of block prints.