Lesser-known art forms such as ganjifa, saura, thangka, rogan and sohrai khovar are showcased in Saundh’s digitally printed collection
Depicting traditional folk art in Indian fashion isn’t new — we’ve appreciated and even bought kalamkari saris and dupattas, or dresses adorned with madhubani hand paintings or warli art. But the focus, as seen with Surat-based indie brand Saundh’s new collection, is now on highlighting lesser-known techniques. Their newly-launched Kalp Haat collection features five capsules where the tribal and folk art forms of Ganjifa, Saura, Thangka, Rogan and Sohrai Khovar are digitally printed on garments.
The digital art debate
- Using digital prints of handmade art has been an issue of concern in India — be it a gond painting or an ikat weave in the past, or more recently, when designer Sabyasachi drew flak for using digital prints of sanganeri and kalamkari, among other ancient forms, for his collab with international brand H&M. So, fashion writers have begun asking some tough questions. Is traditional art and its makers losing out in this process of commercialisation and digital reproductions? Are we depriving artists of opportunities, then?
- Standing his ground, Saluja says, “Saundh was founded with the aim to provide designer wear at an accessible price point for the larger audience. While we are inspired by India’s rich craft and cultural heritage, the brand, since its inception, has been using digital prints across its collections. So far, we haven’t incorporated handcrafted techniques or worked with artisans to revive Indian crafts. We are inspired by everyday art that we see around us, which are then reimagined into collections offering our own take on these concepts.”
“Our design team has drawn inspiration from the motifs and colours used in these traditional art forms and rendered a modern printed reinterpretation of them,” says Sarabjeet Saluja, CEO and founder of the Indian and Indo-western wear (saris, jackets, etc) collection.
For instance, sohrai khovar, an art form from Jharkhand (which now carries a GI tag), is traditionally used for decorating the marriage chamber of the bride and groom, and during the harvest season. It usually depicts the flora and fauna of neighbouring forests and valleys, and the murals are made using broken combs. “Our in-house artists also used broken combs to create the art, which was then digitally-printed on to the fabrics,” he explains, adding that they use only natural fibres and fabrics, dominated by cotton and silks.
The ganjifa capsule is themed on the colourful hand-painted card game made popular by the Mughals. Traditional designs, down to their intricate detailing and floral motifs, have been printed on to long, flowing kurtas. As for Saura, the tribal art form found on the walls of homes in villages in eastern India, mostly Odisha, it has been highlighted with gota applique, tassels, and thread embroidery in this collection. From the Kutch region in the West comes rogan, known for its intricate geometric flowers, peacocks, the tree of life motifs.
The designs inspired by Tibetan Buddhist art, thangka, feature mountains and swirling clouds, and have been printed on evening wear — classic anarkalis, and elegant long suits, crushed bamboo brocade dupattas and more. “We have been careful not to use any religious symbols [perhaps playing it safe to avoid any controversy that may arise out of the use of religious imagery in fashion],” concludes Saluja.
Kalp Haat is priced from ₹2,995 onwards on saundh.com