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Go behind the seams with péro’s Fall/Winter 2019 collection with the Woolmark Company

  • The designer celebrates her 10th anniversary with a collection reinventing old favourites
  • The collection introduces some stunning staple reiterations in wool, that suit the season

Australian Merino wool being embroidered.
Australian Merino wool being embroidered.

Globally, people usually think that Indian wear is more suitable for the warmer months than winters, but I wanted to change that notion," says designer Aneeth Arora, founder, péro. She decided to work with wool, a fabric she’s worked with in the past—Arora was a regional finalist for the International Woolmark Prize 2013-14. From a small, independent label in 2009, péro now retails in around 350 stores around the world, including India, Japan and France, and is marking its 10th anniversary this year—a remarkable feat in a short span of time for any designer.

The label has successfully carved a niche aesthetic for itself—bohemian blouses, tunics, trousers, skirts, jackets made from handwoven fabrics with motifs of hearts and flowers. While hearts have become the brand’s leitmotif, flowers repeatedly pop up in ways that are whimsical and nuanced rather than saccharine.

For her Fall/Winter 2019 collection, in partnership with The Woolmark Company (TWC), Arora, 36, made a collection of winter wear crafted from Australian Merino wool. The partnership was agreed to in 2017. She presented the collection at the Summer/Resort 2019 edition of the Lakmé Fashion Week in February. It will hit stores this month.

Like always, Arora offset her floral motifs with woven geometric patterns. This time, the indigenous textile of choice was the pattu, the ethnic outfit of checks and stripes worn by the women of Kullu, Himachal Pradesh. Arora spoke to Lounge about her creative process as she rolled out the collection at Good Earth last weekend. Edited excerpts from an interview:

An ensemble from péro’s Fall/Winter 2019 collection
An ensemble from péro’s Fall/Winter 2019 collection

What inspired you about Himachal Pradesh’s indigenous textiles?

TWC had approached us since we were one of the few brands in India using Merino wool for the past decade. One of their weaving partners is Bhuttico, a Kullu-based organization that works with traditional crafts. Even though péro is known for using traditional crafts from various regions of India, it was a very special opportunity for us to explore Kullu’s traditional crafts, especially because weavers in Kullu have been using Merino wool all this while. There we were using the skills of the weavers but were innovating with our own process.

Since these patterns are indigenous to the weavers in Kullu, how did you innovate with them?

The pattu is made in the form of a shawl with a border on both sides. Its geometric patterns must be inlaid on the loom itself, which is the weavers’ skill. After understanding this technicality and the pattu’s texture from the weavers, we were able to engineer the patterns on the garments.

We had designed and pre-engineered the placement of these patterns, which was advantageous for the weavers and allowed us to weave only as much as required without wastage. Inlaying the pattern on the loom is tedious and we don’t like cutting them off while tailoring.

We didn’t expect the weavers to understand this part, so to aid them we accurately sketched how and where the patterns would be woven, avoiding any spillover beyond the hemlines and edges. Once the woven textile came off the loom, we could immediately stitch it because we were careful about minimizing waste.

Another part of the collection is the colourful border called kushi—the narrow tapes traditionally woven on a small loom. We wanted to incorporate them in the collection as well, so we gave the weavers our own designs, ultimately using them as tapes and fasteners on the clothes.

How did you reinterpret indigenous patterns to give them a modern rendition?

The philosophy of the brand since the beginning has been to use traditional Indian textiles and crafts to create a global product that fits easily, wherever in the world, without shouting about its origins. We try to create the textiles with a global design language.

The role of the silhouette as a design element is very important, especially when the clothes have to appeal to a larger audience. That’s why we make sure that the way they have been cut is suitable for different people, from body types to nationalities.

In terms of colours, was the intention always to create an added contrast? How did you dye the wool?

A challenge for us was to combine the weaving techniques with that colour palette, but it ended up working beautifully because Kullu’s pattus were already designed in shades of blue. The brightly coloured geometric patterns on the kushi complemented it perfectly, eventually becoming vibrant accents in an otherwise mundane colour scheme.

We haven’t used any natural dyes because wool doesn’t take very easily to them since the colours don’t render as intensely. So, we used azo-free dyes that don’t have any harmful chemicals. We have tested them thoroughly and they won’t fade.

As opposed to your signature work of delicate floral motifs, the collection also features large-scale floral embroideries. Was that departure deliberate?

Because of the collaboration, we had access to wool yarn. So we experimented with these large strands of wool and made these giant flowers. They look as if they are painted but they have actually been meticulously embroidered in various shades.

The accessories also have a similar theme of florals and colours.

How we style the collection is akin to telling a story. Because we used the kushi in the garments, we wanted to use it in our accessories too. The kushi were woven in varying widths that reflect a weaver’s skill and then innovatively used, such as tongues of shoes and on our bags.

This collection features a lot of coats, which isn’t a staple in Indian wear.

Come to think of it now, I feel it was a conscious effort to make jackets because we want people to know that Indian textiles can also be used in winter; not only aesthetically, but also in an utilitarian way.

They are not just coats but reversible jackets as well, so there’s a lot of value for money there, making them practical for Indian winters too.

The criterion for the collaboration was that 80% of the collection must be made of wool, and jackets lend themselves to wool very easily. There are also jacket dresses that don’t need to be layered further, making them very versatile.

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