In honor of our collaboration with the sustainable textile brand Yarn Glory, we sat down with their founder Anannya Sharma to learn about her personal journey, Yarn Glory's mission and what she is doing to help economically empower women in North Eastern India.
How did your journey in textile designing begin?
My actual journey into textile designing began in the eighties when I decided to go to Bombay to pursue a course in this subject. When I took this call, I was teaching after completing my graduation and B.Ed program.
Tell us more about your inspiration and the role it plays your creative.
My inspiration to embark on a career in textile designing is an actualization of my keen and abiding interest in colors and patterns. As a child, I grew up in upper Assam amidst nature in its various manifestations. The changing colors of a myriad hues whether it's the sky or the trees had marveled my young mind. In the interior parts of Jorhat and Mothiasiga, I spent days watching my grandmothers weave. I was deeply fascinated by the process of spinning silk from a cocoon. I began learning more and more about Assam’s famous indigent silks — Muga and Eri. Soon thereafter, I started to dabble with colors and designs both on canvas and fabric. The interest aroused was overpowering.
As a woman designer, who has empowered rural women and has worked on preserving the handloom heritage, you must have come a long way. Have there been any significant changes in the industry?
My engagement with women weavers in villages of the north eastern region began about 18 years ago. I observed that our rich heritage of handloom weaving was under threat. The lack of diversity in product range and stereotypical designs and color schemes was limiting the market reach. Most of the women weavers remained in a state of financial hardship, which quite naturally, offered little inducement to the younger generation to adopt trade as a tool for economic improvement. Changes within this industry are inevitable. Textile designing is also an intricate form of science. To learn how to manipulate fabrics and play with textures broadens the scope of artwork that can be done upon it. To me, fabrics are an interplay of creativity and practicality.
As your designs involve the local Assam silk. How has it uplifted the local artisans and their livelihoods?
The weavers I engage, both tribal and non-tribal work on both cotton and Eri silk. My emphasis is on Eri or Ahimsa silk which is a more environment-friendly choice. The yarn is drawn without killing the silk worm it’s dyed in natural extracts derived from different herbs, fruits, flowers, bark of trees and vegetables. The yarn, both silk and cotton, are woven into garments and household furnishings.The answer to this problem of the handloom industry was to enhance marketability of the production without compromising on my aesthetic. The mission I embarked upon very early in my journey was to help indigent weavers develop more consumer oriented designs by closely playing with new weaving techniques and colour schemes. This methodology of assessing the products of the handloom sector is now increasingly the trend which is a major shift in the industry practices. The underlying motto of my business has always been about helping women reach financial independence.
Can you illustrate for us the creative and manufacturing processes that undergoes while fabricating a collection?
While fabricating a collection, a central theme of the season’s inspiration is the core from which our line evolves. It is easy for me as all my raw materials are sourced from nature. Through a process of careful derivation of our dyes, our weavers go on to develop yardages of fabric. This is then used for product evolution.
Can you explain the process of generation of sustainable silk that is also a key factor of your designs?
The current buzz over sustainable fashion is aimed at making the fashion industry more environmentally responsible and improving the lives of the garment weavers. The process I adopt in promoting sustainable production of Eri silk has been outlined in the previous paragraph. With humility, I can reiterate that ever since I embarked on this journey “my mission was to ensure long term sustainability of weaving practices in this region in a fair, ethical, eco-friendly manner.”