Sanjukta Dutta creates unique garments by clubbing prints of different places, with the Assamese silk mekhela chador as the base in most cases. In an exclusive interview with Fibre2Fashion, she tells us about her beautiful pieces and her efforts to redress problems of weavers.
Fibre2fashion : Tell us about your collection at Lakme Fashion Week 2017.
Lakme Fashion Week 2017 was my debut solo show. I was delighted with the wonderful response. My collection saw a balance of infused traditional Assamese motifs on the graceful mekhela chador. I introduced sarees and lehenga-cholis made from Assamese silk. The vibrancy of the Bodo and Miri communities created a unique canvas through different flower and traditional motifs. My collection reflected a lively ethos.
Preity Zinta walked the ramp for me and brought alive the magic of the mekhela chador. As a showstopper, she looked splendid. I especially crafted the mekhela she wore in black, gold, silver and red and had kolka and sutradhor motifs entwined to present the true face of today's Assam.
Fibre2fashion : You usually incorporate traditional designs of different parts of the country to the mekhela chador. What is the inspiration for your latest collection? Which Assamese motifs have you used and what is their significance?
I believe that clothing is not just a piece of cloth but an integral part of the wearer's identity. I love playing with colours and designs. Some of my work draws influence from bandhej, leheria, ari and digital prints. I experiment with these textures and Assamese traditions, blended with modern accents.
The traditional designs of Assam are rich in their storytelling, just like folk music. However, if you take a closer look, you will realise that I have attempted to present these traditional designs in a contemporary fashion.
Fibre2fashion : What has the response been for this collection?
Fibre2fashion : How do you market your creations?
Fibre2fashion : How is weaving a mekhela chador different from weaving other traditional Indian outfits?
Fibre2fashion : What is the market for mekhela chador outside Assam?
Earlier, wherever I went, people were aware of silk sarees from different regions of the country, but very few knew about the traditional Assamese split saree made from Assamese silk. The scenario has changed. People are getting to know about the mekhela chador. They appreciate the fact that apart from being pretty, it is easier to wear than a saree. About 40 per cent of my clients are non-Assamese and from the younger generation who are interested in wearing sarees but find it a little difficult to drape one. I also design pre-pleated sets so the wearer only uses the hooks to put the mekhela in place.
Apart from Guwahati, Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore have shown the most interest. I export to the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Australia and other places.
Fibre2fashion : Where do you source your fabric?
Fibre2fashion : What is the size of your weaving unit? How many weavers do you work with?
In 2012, I opened a weaving unit with just three handlooms. I always wanted to customise bridal outfits. I sold 3,000 units of my products within a year-and-a-half in Sohum, Guwahati.
In 2013, I set up two handcrafting units in Guwahati. In 2014, I opened a commercial boutique, Sanjukta Studio, where people can choose or place customised orders for dresses or ornaments. Today, I have more than 100 workers who produce the mekhela chador.
Fibre2fashion : What are the issues that your weavers face? As a designer, what are you doing to redress their problems?