Northeast India is home to many unique textiles, but over the years, people have started to favour machine-produced clothes in comparison to handmade fabric. One of the main reasons behind this is that it is often difficult to find outfits made with natural textiles featuring modern cuts and designs. Some talented designers are doing their bit to give a modern spin to the textiles found in the region. One designer from Sikkim who is working towards popularizing natural and sustainable textiles is Karma Sonam. She recently showcased her collection at Lakme Fashion Week where it got a lot of positive feedback. We find out more about the designer and her journey so far.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into designing
I was born in Sikkim, but brought up in Rajasthan and Delhi. I did my schooling and college from Banasthali Vidyapith, Rajasthan. I did my post graduation course from National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, in textile design.
I had always been fascinated with different kinds of materials especially textiles. I used to make clothes for dolls, knit sweaters and do patchwork when I was in school.
How did the idea of Kuzu come about? What motivated you to make it eco-friendly?
After working as a textile designer in Delhi and Bombay for some time I felt that I needed to start on my own. And what better place than my own hometown. So, in 2016, I started Kuzu, focussed on developing the textile sector.
If you look at the traditional way of making textiles, it was all eco-friendly. No harmful chemicals were ever used in the traditional methods and all the fibre used was also natural. I am trying to carry forward that very idea of natural and sustainable textiles.
I have always been interested in Japanese textile for their use of natural materials and textures.
Sikkim is a very small State with very few but beautiful textiles. There are many natural fibres’ and dyes used here. I have been trying to use fibres like nettle (plant fibre), yak wool, sheep wool, rabbit wool and cotton in my products.
What do you think sets Kuzu apart from other brands?
Each piece is hand-woven by local weavers and handmade from natural materials. KUZU creates sustainable clothing and home textiles, in harmony with nature and in collaboration with various weavers and artisans.
All the yarns used are eco-friendly, sourced from all over India and Nepal, woven into fabric by various weaving clusters spread out across the entire Himalayan range.
Where can people buy your products? Do you sell online?
As of now, products can be pre-ordered online from our website. Our home furnishing range is going to be launched at the Good Store in London and we are also planning to tie up with other retail brands in India.
Share a little about your experience showcasing at Lakme Fashion Week. What was the response like?
It was a very wonderful experience. I cannot thank IMG Reliance and Lakmé Fashion Week enough for giving me this opportunity. I feel so honoured and delighted to be part of such a wonderful event.
The response was really good. I got a lot of enquires from renowned design stores.
I want to continue working with craft clusters. I am focusing on bringing forth handloom to home linen, along with a line of garments. We at KUZU want to build a holistic lifestyle brand. The vision is to take the traditional ideals of the existing textile techniques in Sikkim and build new layers of contemporary narratives which are production-friendly and scalable.
There are four labels under the parent brand, KUZU
Naturala: This collection is focused on creating comfortable home furnishings, like rugs, throws and cushions. The inspiration for this collection comes from the native tribal weaving technique in which a back strap loom with extra weft is used. The material used is cotton yarn. They have tried playing with the thickness of the yarn to make the material more exciting.
W&M: This collection is all about how we treat and dress our bodies in different surroundings.
Chiso: It is a collection of winter accessories which are hand knit and 100% wool.
Khagti: Accessories and hand embroidered scarves with traditional motifs.
By Meeta Borah
This feature was first published in Eclectic Northeast April 2018 issue