India is home to more colour, culture and craft than the mind can imagine and it all began centuries ago. Many handloom crafts originated in minuscule villages with a handful of artisans passing it down the blood line. Some faded from grace while others thrived to reach stores and magazine covers. Patola is one of the latter. Originating from Gujrat's Patan district, patola was reserved solely for royalty. Sometimes taking months or even up to a year to make, it was a sign of exclusivity like no other. It is one of the ways in which the deftly crafted double weave differentiates itself from ikat as well as with its social currency, since wearing patola was a mark of high stature.
Today, the number of weavers practicing the art of double weaving have declined greatly and so has the reliance on pure fabric, hand looms and long time constraints. However, it's not all bad. With its rich heritage and vibrant appearance, patola is also serving as inspiration for fashion designs in the modern age. Just ask Yashraj Bhaiya. Founder of Label Varsha, he is the force behind the contemporary ethnic wear brand that is inspired by Indian handicrafts including patola. NDTV Swirlster spoke to Yashraj Bhaiya about the legacy of patola and its modern take in the new century.
"Patola is a double ikat woven fabric currently made in Patan, Gujarat. It is an expensive craft, initially worn only by those belonging to royal families. The Patola technique is a detailed process and it is said that this technique is taught to no one in the family, but only to the sons to take this heritage craft forward. It can take up to six months to one year to make one saree as each strand is dyed separately before weaving them together," says Yashraj, shedding light on its origins. Although patola is still crafted from its source, production has decreased gradually through the years.
When it comes to serving as inspiration for labels and designers however, it is definitely not going anywhere. Commenting on Label Varsha's derivation of the craft, he says, "India has a huge offering of art and crafts. We take inspiration from these crafts and try to innovate and blend them with different silhouettes. For me, this is not the only way forward as we only interpret these into various forms. The original Patola craft is centuries old which makes it timeless and eternal. Hence, I believe both forms run parallel to each other."
It's safe to say that Indian handlooms are getting a modern reinvention and Yashraj has a few ideas about making the change possible. "Indian crafts can be modernized in various ways. It can be done by weaving or printing. At Label Varsha, we generally try to experiment with all the possibilities first and then proceed with the best option we have on the table. With respect to patola's inspiration on our collections, we have tried to keep the essence of the fabric and taken inspiration from the art itself."
Patola has appeared on the runway with designers like Gaurang Shah and Deepika Govind reinventing and making it couture-ready for the ramp. Chiming in, Yashraj adds, "Patola is one of my favourites crafts because of its intricate process. Its rich colour and designs can never go out of style."