Mar 29, 2009
I returned to the city where our workshops were getting ready to begin the stitching process. A plan was put in place so that we could complete at least one set of each line in 4 weeks, which meant, 11 products before I had to fly back to Canada. A tall order for such a highly technical project but my talented team was up for the challenge.
The Holi quilt has over 200 patches that had to be cut precisely in the right sizes and then stitched together to create the contemporary design that we now see in the final product. The circles were then appliqued on top with careful precision. The range of colors is truly amazing in this product and even though it took the artisans a little longer to get this done to perfection, it was worth the wait.
For maximum energy efficiency in production, all the fabrics are usually dried in natural sunlight so abundantly available in India. Since our collection is inter-changeable across product lines, the fabric production was also done in the most efficient process, hence, reducing wastage of raw material and minimizing environmental footprint.
Like I said, monsoon was in full swing in Calcutta. One of those days, as I was on my way to the workshop, the rain came pouring down. The already narrow streets of Calcutta were now getting jammed with cars with nowhere to go and water filling up every possible place that it couldn't get drained out of. I did have my rain boots with me, so I donned them on, and got out of my cab to walk the rest of the way to the workshop.
Needless to say, my fashion statement caught the eye of every rain-drenched passerby. These people having lived in this city for years and years, and having dealt with many such monsoons, found it very amusing that someone actually wore rain boots to protect their feet from getting soaked in the filthy waters of all the open drains around us! I, on the other hand, couldn't help but wonder if they were actually envious of my foresight and my cute little boots!
The designs were challenging yet fun to work with. It was not always smooth sailing as we had trouble keeping the cotton-like-jacquard tops to work with the smooth silkiness of the backs when the quilts had to be stitched through and through. Keeping all the various geometric patterns straight posed quite a challenge even for the master artisan. They came up with their own methodology and technique to match the various jacquard triangles.
There were many such issues but with careful attention to detail and skilled artisanship, we were finally able to put together our samples for our first collection. It was time for me to say goodbye to my production team in Calcutta and head back for Vancouver and then onto New York for our photo shoot and review of samples.
Mar 15, 2009
Filled with memories and inspiration from our trip to India, the design phase began in New York, primarily in Stephen's studio. After an intense 2 - 3 month design process, quite a few iterations, we were ready for the next phase of Rajboori - Sample Development. This would be the phase where we put the skills of the weavers and the artisans to the test as our designs were by no means - SIMPLE.
True to what Style Noir says in their blog (http://stylenoir.blogspot.com/2009/01/stephen-burks-eco-silks.html), Stephen is noted for "his seamless integration of classic handcrafts and modern aesthetics". Our debut collection would be a luxurious blend of contemporary design and age-old techniques and craftsmanship.
Given the highly technical nature of the designs and the intricate details involved, I decided to travel to India one more time, to personally oversee and manage the sample development process. Our goal was to have the first iteration ready by September so that we could apply for the NYIGF Winter 2009 show to launch Rajboori.
Monsoon season was in full swing in the Eastern part of India but that didn't deter me from diving right in to the process. Armed with my design folder and Vancouver-proven rain boots, I arrived in Calcutta in Aug. The cool nights and balmy days reminded me of my childhood spent in this bustling metropolis where the Rajboori organic silk collection would take shape.
First, I made a short trip to the village, where I documented the weaving process and captured the moments through photographs. The unique and extremely geometric jacquard pattern was woven in looms with 10 paddles, that had to be monitored by two people constantly so that the weave would be done in the exact shape and size. Such intricate weaving technique is known only to a few master weavers, whose skills are preserved exclusively within their families.
The dual tones in the diamond shaped patterns were even more difficult to weave but when they were done, the final effect was much, much better than what I had imagined it would be. The women of the house also get involved in the whole process where they make the bobbins that go into the looms in which the fabrics are woven.
It's pretty amazing to see a concept design come to life right before your eye, step by step. In our case, the initial steps was long but the end result was worth the wait.
Mar 2, 2009
In March, 2008, Stephen and I journeyed to India, mainly the Eastern part, to develop the design concept for our very first collection that would be luxurious, artisanal, eco-friendly, and contemporary. A wide variety of silk was available to us but we decided to use Peace Silk as our fabric due to it's amazing texture that resembles cotton mixed with wool with the sheen of silk. It's a very durable silk that offers everyday luxury. Peace Silk is also the only eco-friendly silk as the silkworm remains unharmed during the silk extraction process. It is allowed to live a full life and become a moth from.
Together, we travelled to the heart of the silk industry and into the homes of the weavers who create these amazing fabrics. Their skills are inherited from their forefathers and this weaver community has been practicing this trade for centuries. It was truly amazing to find that each home contained a loom. The expert weaver's hands flew through the warps and the wefts of the weaves, creating magic in the fabric right before our eyes!
We created quite a stir in this otherwise quiet village. A tall American, a somewhat westernized young Indian woman, and our Indian collaborators caught the curious attention of the young and old in the village. Wherever we went, we had a following of about 8-10 people with us!
The time of our visit conveniently coincided with the Festival of Colors - Holi, which is a celebration of the arrival of Spring. The colors of Holi provided us with some of the inspiration for our bold and vibrant collection. Holi is a colorful and vibrant festival where the colors of nature are replicated in the form of powdered color and applied on each other.
After spending a good amount of time in the village and the vibrant city of Calcutta, we returned to NY/Vancouver to develop the design concept for our first eco-silk home textile collection.
TO BE CONTINUED.....NEXT POST MAR 16
I met industrial Designer Stephen Burks (Readymade Projects, NY) at a sustainability seminar and that's when the Rajboori story began. Having owned a silk bed linen and fabric business (Melange Creations) in Vancouver, Canada, I wanted to explore a more eco-chic, sustainable, and contemporary design aesthetic for a new luxury line of top of the bed fashion. I also wanted to create something that would contribute back to the sustenance of an ancient skill and a community that requires serious patronage. Luckily, Stephen was intrigued at the opportunity and hence Rajboori was formed.
A lot of people have asked what does Rajboori mean. So, here goes - we wanted a name that evoked luxury but was unpretentious and fun at the same time. Raj as we know means "regal, royal" in India and "Boori" in Bengali means "old lady". Bengali is the native language of Kolkata (Calcutta). Silk being our main fabric of use is an old, traditional but very regal fabric. So Rajboori literally translates to "regal old lady".