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Old threads make new garb

  • Naushad Ali is showcasing his design installation ‘GARB’ at London Fashion Week’s International Fashion Showcase
  • Ali’s collection is based on reclaiming waste fabrics, dyed in indigo which the designer has been using since his label first launched

Naushad Ali at Somerset House, London, with his showcase ‘GARB’. Photo: IMG-Reliance
Naushad Ali at Somerset House, London, with his showcase ‘GARB’. Photo: IMG-Reliance

In 2017, five Indian labels, including Ka-Sha, P.E.L.L.A and Antar-Agni, made their way to London as part of London Fashion Week’s International Fashion Showcase (IFS). The installation, titled Indian Pastoralists, won the Indian pavilion, helmed by IMG Reliance, the Best Country Award. “One of the mandates of our organization is to grow Indian fashion both in India and internationally. The IFS fit in to our strategy as it provided an opportunity for young Indian talent to break through," says Jaspreet Chandok,vice-president and head (fashion) of IMG Reliance. Two years later, India is back at IFS with Naushad Ali. The 33-year-old Puducherry-based designer has extended his minimalist and sustainable design ethos to GARB, a line of garments from discarded textiles. In an email interaction with Lounge, Ali talks about sustainability, reclaiming waste fabrics and his love for indigo. Edited excerpts:

How did you conceptualize ‘GARB’?

As a label, we have always worked with textiles, often utilizing traditional craft processes. Working with weavers across India, I have been developing new fabrics and exploring methods to recycle fabric. For IFS, I extended the philosophy of sustainability to the installation itself, creating the main body of the display from waste material and offcuts destined for the rubbish heap.

GARB reminds us that small, throwaway, everyday actions have a serious and accumulative impact. Using indigo dye—and aiming at zero wastage—I have taken scraps of fabrics, which would otherwise be dumped, and repurposed them as patchwork pieces, a nod to both traditional Indian culture and the current zeal for sustainable production.

Is the extensive use of blue in your display also a reference to indigo?

In 2014, my first collection was a nod to indigo. We have loved and explored indigo since our inception. An indigenous dye with great sustainable properties, working with indigo comes naturally to me. We have also worked on pieces which can be decomposed without harming the environment. Hence the marriage with indigo was seamless.

Which are some of the key pieces of ‘GARB’?

It all starts with the yarn. Our first ensemble is called Spun, which celebrates the most fundamental element of our process—the conscious and careful selection of the yarn and dye. The second ensemble, the Sari Reconstructed, is an over-jacket made from a pallu, paired with a cropped jacket constructed from the silver borders of a sari.

Another key piece is a pullover, crocheted with scraps and left-out thread from embroidery, sewing and weaving. It’s raw and refined, just like nature.

What has the experience of participating in the programme been like?

It has been a great learning experience. The year-long business development programme with London College of Fashion set us in a great direction and prepared (us) for the market here. The residency at Somerset House also helped me look into the details of showcase and installation.

How do you hope to showcase Indian designs on international platforms?

The label has always looked up to Indian traditions, in terms of fabrics. We work with some of the oldest looms and communities in the country but create garments that are international. The idea is to showcase our skills in a platform like IFS.

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