With two Bangladeshis winning the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture, four Bangladeshi women in the fashion and style industries making it to the hallowed pages of Vogue India, and 2016 being Tourism Year for the country, the Fashion Design Council of Bangladesh (FDCB) has once again shown forethought in their choice of theme for this year’s Khadi Festival, to be held on December 9 and 10.
Last year, the challenge presented to participating designers was to take inspiration from local crafts such as sheetol pati, shokher hari, shondesh, paper cutting and nakshi, for example. This year, posing as muse for the (larger) pool of participants is a list of nine heritage sites around the country. Over the next few weeks, we shall look at some of these sites and the designers drawing inspiration from them.
This week, we start with the graceful columns and sublime facade of the Baliati zaminder-bari in Manikganj, and chat with the two creative minds who have selected this as their inspiration.
This year, Bibiana celebrates fifteen years of operation. Fashion designer and Charukola alumnus Lipi Khandaker’s brainchild has grown from a modest boutique specialising in local ethnic fashion to a formidable chain of outlets in Dhaka, Sylhet and Chittagong, employing some 15,000 artisans around the country.
At Bibiana, the story of each garment starts at the hands of the artisans, who take the orders and weave beautiful textiles for the designer to use as a canvas. “Khadi itself is an elegant fabric,” says Lipi Khandaker. “We are just beginning to tap into its potential for fashion that is true to our heritage, but in keeping with contemporary tastes.”
Speaking about Baliati zaminder-bari as a muse, Khandaker said “The site has several points of interest to draw from, but what really piqued my interest - and what I will be focusing on for the collection for the Festival, are the beautifully ornamental grilles.”
What one can expect from the collection are the motifs from the grilles translated through screen print and subtle ornamentation to transform the fine khadi into Khandaker’s signature ethnic wear. “We were impressed with last year’s conversion rates - people who had never worn khadi before stepped up to place orders. This is good news because one of the motives of the FDCB is to increase opportunities for local artisans. We hope to do even better this year”
Back in 1995, designer Shaibal Shaha, who loves travelling, found himself at a festival in Germany, where he encountered an indigo stall. The brilliant colour of the products impacted him in such a profound way that he came back, renewed with creative zest. In 2012, he launched his studio outlet Indigo, which, as the name suggests, features a lot of blue. In fact, Indigo has made a niche for itself with its endless combinations and permutations of clothing in various shades of blue.
One would think that the stipulation of working with khadi, with one building complex as a muse, and all in blue would be triply restricting for this veteran, but he laughs it off with a chuckle. “I’m going to do something different, unexpected with my collection this year” Shaha promises. While he is reluctant to go into details for fear of spoiling the surprise, we were informed that we’ll be seeing both menswear and saris in the collection.
“Traditionally, we tend to think of stoles, kotis and winter wear when we hear “khadi”. At the FDCB, we’re trying to break out of those limitations and explore the surprising ways in which this beautiful textile can be used for maximum wearability and comfort” he adds. “The fact that it is eco-friendly only makes our work that much more important for the future.”