November brings with it a slew of festivals in Dhaka, putting the focus on culture and heritage. Among the panellists gracing the Dhaka Lit Fest this year is Shashi Tharoor, author of the best-selling An Era of Darkness, where he painstakingly describes how colonisation took Bengal from textile giant to a poster-child for poverty. While Bangladesh has definitely made quite a comeback since then, once again flourishing in the RMG sector, there is work yet to be done, particularly in our handloom industry.
As we fight and claw our way back towards our former glory, it bears taking a look at other Asian countries to see what they’re doing about similar problems. Mae Teeta, a Thai fashion house, specialising in indigo dyed handloom fabrics, is definitely worth checking out. This week, Weekend Tribune got in touch with Morn Sukajit Daengchai, the award-winning young designer behind the family-run business, for a chat about her upcoming visit to Dhaka.
Your label “Mae Teeta” is named after your grandmother, who was instrumental in reviving a flagging weaving method in Thailand. Can you tell us a little bit about how your design house is taking this tradition and presenting to the new generation of fashionistas?
We grow cotton and indigo in our community, which is woven by locals with traditional handlooms. All steps from preparation to weaving are environmentally-friendly processes with no machines involved. Our processes for making fabrics have remained unchanged for centuries since my great grandma’s time, but our products are designed and presented in the new way, more casual and relatable for the new generation of customers. We wish to give them a new experience with the cultural heritage which represents our history and our identity; our bond to the past, to our present, to the future. We believe that the more we live with our roots, the closer we are to a sustainable future.
Why is organic handloom important?
Handloom represents tradition and culture which teach us about human development. Textiles in another word means “language”, an enchanted and attractive communication. Handloom weaving is not only an important cultural treasure, it is also the source of livelihood for the rural population. The way humans need oxygen for surviving, and plants which provide it need water, carbon dioxide and light for photosynthesis. We all belong to nature. We need nature. Nature does not need us. That’s why organic is like oxygen.
You will be participating at the Khadi: Future Fabric Show in Dhaka next month. How are you feeling?
I feel really excited because it's my first time visiting Bangladesh. I've never thought about having a chance to go there before.
What can we expect to see from Mae Teeta at the show?
A fresh new look, a fun colour tone, chic styles.
I guess we’ll have to wait to see the rest. What’s your advice for people aspiring to study Fashion Design?
Fashion design is what you want to tell the world, and how you want to express to the world. It is who you are. Look deeply inside your thoughts and your mind.
The Khadi:Future Fabric Show, which takes place on November 3 and 4 at the International Convention City, Bashundhara, is just the right event to whet the appetite and get the heritage conversation started as we count down to the Dhaka Lit Fest, happening on November 16-18. What’s a better time to be in Dhaka?