‘No wardrobe is complete without traditional weaves’: designer Latha Puttana’s advice for the festive season

October 26, 2018

The festive season is under way, and we get fashion designer, Latha Puttana to talk about the importance of ancient craftsmanship with a contemporary twist.

A ribbon of fabric in sheer tussar silk? A saree in pure Kanjeevaram shot with gold? Or a georgette dupatta with silk accents? What would you choose for the festive season?

Bengaluru-based fashion designer and craft revivalist, Latha Puttana, who has an eponymous label, has some exciting options for the season. She suggests that you blend the old and the new to light up your Diwali. In an exclusive interview with YS Weekender, the designer who holds shows in New York, London, Singapore, Malaysia, Hyderabad, Chennai, and many other cities, talks about the new trends of the season and more. She will be holding a new showing of her festive line this week in the city at Taj West End, Bengaluru.

Edited excerpts from an interview:

YourStory Weekender: What are some of the major fashion trends that we should follow during this festive season?

Beautiful fabrics and fine weaves are the hallmarks of the season

Latha Puttana: I find that weaves have come back in a big way this year. In my opinion, no wardrobe is complete without Indian traditional weaves.

People have finally begun to appreciate our own crafts and textiles and it is a moment of pride for me, as I have been working with Indian weaves for the last 26 years. Another important trend today is focusing on simplicity and minimalism. Women are smarter and will pay for quality over quantity, especially, when it comes to fabrics.
Latha Puttana

YSW: Can you tell us about your new festive collection Yashoda?

LP: My new collection Yashoda explodes with six vivid hues that perfectly reflect the season. The ensembles are made out of pure silk and zari with woven georgette and Kanjeevaram silk accents. There are sarees, salwars, and ghagras that have been brought together in a truly Deccan aesthetic.

The sleek, repetitive lines of the Kanjeevaram accents in the fabrics make this collection special. It is traditional yet stylishly modern, with plenty of layering of ornate borders and intricate stitches. The colours are an explosion of Diwali hues and are sure to brighten up any occasion. They spell Deccan Heritage in every stitch.

YSW: How did you add your own twist to traditional textiles?

LP: I have taken the most beautiful Deccan fabrics from different states and put them together in blends of vivacious colours that have never been seen before. I have also added ruffles, trails and other fine, woven accents across the garments. These bring out the extraordinary complexity in the texture and weave to make my garments truly special.

Latha Puttana focuses on traditional craftsmanship with a dash of glamour

YSW: What are the some of the weaves of Karnataka that you are trying to revive?

LP: I have spent a lifetime reviving Mysore Silk weaves and the silk weaves of Karnataka. I have now adopted small hamlets in villages where I get fabrics for my sarees, salwars, and ghagras, and even for my Indo-Western line. These are hand-woven with slight twists in the design of the jacquards. The techniques that our weavers use have been passed down from generation to generation. With each passing year we learn more and strive to reinvent the old for a younger audience.

YSW: Can you tell us about your journey with the revival of traditional fabrics?

LP: I started working on textiles in my garage in 1992 with two craftsmen. That was 26 years ago, and today I have over 50 craftsmen, across many states. My joy lies in taking our most traditional fabrics and weaves and turning them into my signature Deccan Heritage style. I can lose sleep after I meet a new weaver and he shows me his family heirloom of weaves.

Most of the time these weavers are so strict in their ways that they need a lot of encouragement to change even the smallest of patterns. This is when I don't give up and keep pushing them to make one small change which once completed, makes a whole world of difference to the fabric.

My focus has always been to use our Indian textiles and change them ever so slightly to make them my signature pieces. Quality and fabric are my strong points. It’s been a long and wonderful journey and I look forward to adopting many more looms across the country.

YSW: What were some of the challenges that you faced?

LP: The biggest challenge that we face today is in terms of pricing. Hand-woven fabrics are getting more and more expensive and most weavers today are the last generation in their family who are doing the weaving. Their children are looking for other career opportunities. My weavers get paid a lot more than average wages but they are constantly struggling to make the next generation proud of this profession. I respect them greatly.

This is a profession that no school or college can teach, it is only gained through years and years of skilled mentorship and training. It has been a long journey, but today women really appreciate hand woven ensembles and value our craftsmen.

I am known for my hand embroidery and I have also developed many stitches of my own. It is the combination of all this that make the ordinary, extraordinary.

YSW: How we sometimes go wrong in our fashion decisions?

LP: According to me, trying to wear something that someone else has worn is the biggest mistake we can make. Fashion has to be personal and must not be copied. Garments have to be selected according to each person's body type. I always say, a lady should wear a garment, not the garment wear the lady.

YSW: Why should we learn the importance of the textiles we wear?

LP: The textile is the foundation of every garment. Wearing natural fabrics that allow the body to circulate air throughout is the most important function of fabrics. Another important aspect to keep in mind is our subcontinent's climate. Only when fabrics are eco-friendly, will we feel comfortable; comfort is the most important thing to look confident and glamorous.

YSW: What are some the crafts that are near extinction today? How can we help out?

LP: Almost all hand-woven techniques are close to fading out. From the 'Ilkal. Weaves’ to the more famous 'Kanjeevarams', they are all facing extinction in the future. Even certain art, dance and folk music forms are all heading that way. We, as a society, have to inculcate the value of educating our children to appreciate different national art forms. And we as designers have to revive these art forms and fabrics to entice young people.

YSW: How has the fashion industry evolved over the years in the area of craftsmanship?

LP: Today the whole garment story has changed from being merely traditional to looking more contemporary. Women want to drape the saree in multiple ways. This has made craftsmen more in need of designers. I foresee a whole movement towards minimalism in the future. I think young people are going to want to wear simpler and lighter garments.

YSW: What are your plans for the future?

LP: I want to open a bigger store in Bangalore and one in Hyderabad soon. I also want to take my brand to the West in a big way.

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