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Interview with Fashion Designer Payal Jain

Recognizing the role traditional handlooms and designs play in contemporary fashion, in January we started a series of interviews with fashion designers. We ask a set of questions to which the designers send their responses. We will intersperse these with interviews with the crafts persons to get both sides of the process being examined.

Payal Jain graduated Summa-cum-Laude from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM), San Francisco, U.S.A. with a perfect GPA of 4.0 in 1993. After gaining valuable experience in reputed design houses all over the world, a decade ago Payal launched her label Atelier Payal Jain in India and has come a long way since then to be recognized as one of the leading fashion designers in the country. A strong foundation in neo-classical aesthetics coupled with an unparalleled standard of perfection in production is the essence of Payal's designs. With clean, clear silhouettes and an extraordinary sense of style, her designs speak an international language.

In the past decade, Atelier Payal Jain has become synonymous with classic and timeless contemporary clothing, where each garment designed is a truly enriched synthesis of heritage fabrics and craftsmanship in a modern interpretation. The hallmark of every design is elaborate draping, exquisite construction and immaculate finish. Forms and fabrics that bond in ingenious ways, fabrics that are esoteric yet blending into myriad and unusual silhouettes, bear the Atelier Payal Jain signature. Today her ensembles are sold at exclusive outlets across India, Europe, Canada, U.A.E and South East Asia and have found their place in some of the most stylish wardrobes across the globe.

The atelier has in the past few years been actively involved in a renaissance for the revival of crafts, some of which were on the verge of becoming extinct. By infusing techniques and imagination with new possibilities and with continuous experimentation, warps and weft undergo a transformation to ensure that these handicrafts will be timeless.

Payal has been instrumental in raising funds through shows for NGOs like Tamana Special School, Vatsalya Foundation for street children in Mumbai, Cancer Patient Aid Association and Prayas Foundation in Delhi. She has recently launched her first book on fashion studies. This educational reference book specifically designed for XI standard students following the CBSE curriculum is a synthesis of her experiences and endeavors in this field.


As a designer do you employ craft techniques and processes in your art?
Yes, I work primarily with Indian crafts & textiles.

Which crafts have you worked with?
In Embroidery I work with Chikankari, Zardozi, Tanka, Suf, Kantha, Rabari, Kashmiri, Resham, Daraz, Parsi and Mokaish on leather. The craft processes I employ are Daboo printing, Bandhini, Shibori, Sanganer block vegetable printing, Block batik, Ikat, Brocade, Jamdani and Tanchoi.

Do you employ crafts persons or do you work through commissions?
We work directly with craft persons or with NGO's which coordinate with craft persons. We never work through commissions.

Do you give them the designs or do you work with the existing traditions and then modify them within your creations?
We do almost always give them designs as far as possible. We also modify some of their existing designs if they can be reinterpreted in a contemporary context.

While incorporating craft skills in your design, do you seek to retain the traditional character of the craft? And how much scope is there to incorporate the spontaneity/ creative instinct of the artisan, even as (s)he molds the skill as per your requirements.
I do like to maintain the traditional soul of the craft but try to give it a modern body. There is tremendous potential to incorporate the creative skills of artisans if one works sensitively & without injuring their egos. It is very important to establish a mutual trusting relation ship with the artisan to get amazing results. I have found them most cooperative, flexible & artistic.

What is your experience with craftpersons? Do they deliver on time? Are they open to ideas and suggestions?
Yes they do almost always stand by their commitments. We also keep 1-2 weeks extra in hand just to avoid weather related eventualities. They are open to ideas & suggestions if suggested with love & reasoning.

Is the debate surrounding the ethics of isolating a living cultural tradition and using it as mere embellishment a valid one?
I don't agree. If there is no outlets to the craft & no income, people will give it up & never pass it on to the next generation. Exposure of the craft ensures income to the craft person & longevity of the craft itself. Also, I don't feel the craft is used as a mere embellishment but, as the very substance & soul.

What are your thoughts on the future of crafts in India?
I think it is very necessary to preserve & nurture crafts. Our vast heritage of textiles & crafts is incomparable to any other country in the world & we must understand the value of it. It is our biggest strength & our distinctive identity.



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