The ancient textile art form Tie-dye is going through a moment of rebirth
When Hyderabad-based Arti Shankar stumbled across a tie-dye dupatta in her wardrobe during spring cleaning, she immediately thought of reviving the craft. The Jaipur-born and Delhi-raised dance teacher used all of her weekends during the lockdown to produce colorful interior décor pieces, dupattas and other knick-knacks. “I was trying to find ways to get rid of my boring work from home collection so I turned my usual styles of loungewear into a riot of color,” she says. With that, she gave her old grimy clothes a second life – by recycling them in some way – instead of buying new ones, dramatically reducing her carbon footprint. “It’s fun dyeing your own fabric in different patterns… it’s DIY at home… twisted, pressed and tied into one. In addition, it saves you from buying new colors. This way I can conserve what I have and also contribute to the environment, ”explains Shankar.
Traditionally, tie-dyeing in India has been a labor-intensive craft that women practice at home as part of household chores. “Different techniques lead to a myriad of patterns and prints. It adds a touch of abstract, fun, colorful and original pattern to the garment, ”says Chinar Farooqui, founder and designer, Injiri, a Jaipur-based textile and clothing brand.
The ancient technique – with roots in India, Japan, Indonesia and West Africa – is now experiencing a rebirth as a home business as people stay indoors. The art form acted as a mood booster for many during the lockdown. Anuradha Kumra, President, Apparel, Fabindia, believes it has become one of the biggest fashion trends of the year. And why not? DIY tie-dye is a fun way to relax while being stuck at home and an easy way to recycle parts you may already have in the closet. “Social media influencers have also jumped on the bandwagon and are sharing tutorials on dyeing their clothes. Every item in the closet – a pair of shorts, shoes, T-shirts, jeans – can be given a makeover, ”says Kumra, adding:“ Notably, Christian Dior’s spring 2020 collection, “Quarantine Fashion,” led load and set the overdrive tendency, propelling it into the mainstream. The resurgence also seems to recall the human awakening of the 60s and 70s when this textile art became a symbol of hope, love and peace. It was a time when the world was in the grip of war and political madness… we can draw a lot of parallels with today… ”
Kumra believes that this art form unites people today. “It’s as if this style has become the uniform of the pandemic, uniting us as we are all at home together in the fight against the coronavirus. As global supply chains are affected, it also reinforces the idea of sourcing locally with an emphasis on indigenous and sustainable techniques, ”she adds.
As an art form, the technique appeals to people with varied interests. For a designer label, tie-dyeing, along with other forms of dyeing and material exploration like homemade dyes, are attractive and appealing. “The well-deserved break from the mad rush and the time spent with the family encouraged us all to participate in activities… and what better than crafts because it brings people together in a way that cannot be done. imagine, ”says Ekta Gupta, founder of Delhi-fashion brand Ekadi, which showcases the wealth of Indian craftsmanship and block prints. Gupta also used her time during the lockdown to explore colors and textures, using eco-printing with traditional bandhani. “The charm of traditional craftsmanship can never fade, as it has been a part of Indian wardrobes for festivals and weddings, regardless of the seasons and trend forecasts. Design is all about cherishing the details… and when you start editing and re-editing traditional tie-dyeing techniques, the sky is the limit. From exploring patterns to blending craftsmanship with other surface design techniques, each product becomes a diary in itself, absorbing interactions and collective energies to weave a unique story, ”says Gupta, who primarily uses herbal and flower-based dyes, in addition to natural dyes. like indigo, widely used with flowers like marigold, rose and hibiscus and turmeric.
Fabindia has also engaged with many avatars of the technique – shibori, bandhej, leheriya, mothra, etc. – over the years. Their designers work closely with artisans from Rajasthan and Gujarat to create beautiful and unique clothing, saris, stoles, dupattas, bags and upholstery.
Even international brands such as Prada, Stella McCartney, Dior and Versace have featured tie-dye inspired collections over many seasons in the past. Fast-fashion retailers Zara, Boohoo, Asos and Urban Outfitters also stocked up on tie-dye items from March through September of last year. Then there are the psychedelic prints of Indonesia-based Faithfull The Brand, where each piece is hand-dyed, printed and made by local artisans. Many Western celebrities have also made their way. Kendall Jenner and Victoria Beckham, for example, have dyed clothes at home. Former United States First Lady Michelle Obama also looked radiant in a tie-dye cable-knit sweater from Polo Ralph Lauren during a recent Penguin Random House reading series titled “Mondays with Michelle.”
Tie-dyeing is a technique that has been part of the textile craft industry in India for years and has been a lifelong skill for many communities. It is also an intrinsic part of the culture. For example, tie-dye odhanis are worn by women from farming communities in Rajasthan as part of their traditional culture – they are worn with a phentiya (ghagra or lehenga) skirt. These women therefore know and follow the technique of tie-dye since childhood.
From loungewear to linens, the technique can be adapted and personalized for a variety of product lines. Gupta d’Ekadi considers this fashion to be timeless. “In our capsule editions, we combine two techniques… like a traditional bandhani can be mixed with sujini (Bihar embroidery work), block printing, as well as eco-printing,” she says. Injiri’s Farooqui, on the other hand, makes scarves using tie-dye as well as a range of sarees in light and dark tones.
Then there is Aavaran, a sustainable global brand of contemporary clothing based in Udaipur, specializing in dabu mud resistant, hand dyed, block printed clothing and products in different categories including rugs, sub- glasses, towels, women’s pants, tunics, kaftans, crop tops, etc. Alka Sharma, the brand’s founder, says they are seeing great interest and demand for local techniques. Speaking of tie-dyeing, she says, “This craft requires minimal infrastructure and therefore we can easily modify and make variations in the products. The beauty of the technique is that it can go from subtle to bold depending on the design.
Shibori is an ancient Japanese technique of manual resistance dyeing, which produces a number of different patterns on the fabric. Shibori artists use yarn to isolate many small, repeated dots on the fabric after dyeing those spots of color, creating captivating patterns that tend to be much more intricate and detailed than modern tie-dye.
Louis Vuitton’s LV Escale collection of bags for April is imbued with a tie-dye vibe, perfect for a casual day. Inspired by shibori, three colors make up the collection: a gradient of deep blues (reminiscent of traditional indigo), beach pastels (reminiscent of pink sand and blue sky) and variations of deep pink and red (inspired by dyes traditional beetroot). The print is giant monogram.