Life is all about choices one makes; from waking up early in the morning, cutting down of sugar in a cup of tea, to the habits of reading before sleeping. We are surrounded by choices. The foundation of human civilization was from a choice that Eve took instead of Adam by biting the forbidden fruit, the world may look at it as damnation of mankind, but it did give humans the most essential element to live by— Clothes.
Our attire is the first to leave an impression on a bystander which defines us against our will. We become the object of admiration and ridicule, all because of the extra skin draped in our body.
In pic: Clothes made from local fabric
According to Yachna Rizal, a designer and proud owner of Art Café of Kalimpong town in West Bengal, clothes are a luxury; to buy and to wear them is a form of luxury.
She stresses on the fact that this luxury of buying and wearing of clothes comes with a choice. She has established herself with sustainable fashion and environment-friendly items. Her zeal towards her contribution to the world doesn’t include any compromise.
Yachna studied luxury brand as her post-graduate in Delhi, where she pursued her career with notable designers. She worked under their shadows for years, perfecting her skills. However, the fast-moving world of the glimmering city could not charm her for long, the mountains and the serenity of the vales, pulled her towards the town that needed her most.
Initially, the struggle of building a brand name of her own in a small town, tucked safely between the borders, from a scratch was not an easy task. She had to do some research which she did for months. She pushed herself from her own limitations of her comfort zone.
Her main motive being the preservation of culture in apparels. She started off designing traditional wedding dresses out of Dhaka. The inspiration struck her at her friend’s wedding where they were specifically told to wear her friend’s traditional saree in traditional fashion. This made her realise how little she knew about her own culture and tradition. It was then, she decided to do something about it, let the world know about the rich heritage of Nepali fashion. This became her awakening and she started digging deeper to find her roots.
Though the world is changing into fragments, where we are inclined to anything western making it a yardstick to measure modernity, Yachna has taken a step back and has become an advocate of cultural legacy.
“Many of us are uncomfortable with our own traditional dresses. Maybe we are ashamed to wear it; we (Nepalis) are not attached with our own attires this makes me sad because we should be wearing it with pride”, says Yachna.
If we unwind the hands of time, we will find ourselves in an era where our ancestors wore the Dhaka saree and daura–suruwal in boldness. Not to deny any logic of the evolution of fashion and the influence of various cultures over the past years, we are indeed an evolved generation with an amalgam of different tastes when it comes to our clothing.
Yet, Yachna’s main concern here is individuality when it comes to the clothes we wear.
So, the question arises why should one choose her clothing?
Apart from a blend of chic fashion with nostalgic tradition, the materials used in the apparels are all sustainable.
“It is time we should be environmentally conscious about our choices”, she asserts.
“We would like to create awareness by not using polyester, shifting towards nature-friendly ingredients. I use handwoven materials. Sure, it’s expensive and requires time, but I want to use less machine and would like to revive this dying art of weaving to create an opportunity for many skilled individuals in our land”.
Kalimpong, a town known for its forgotten art of weaving, is now encouraging it’s weaving culture once again. Before she could get hold of the handful of weavers in her own locality, Yachna’s quest took her to Nepal. The cotton and the raw materials like threads for the fabric is exported from India which then return to the country for recreation. These workers are trained in Nepal to weave the complex and integrate the pattern into a beautiful construct. This Dhaka clothing is a mark of an important culture in fabric and thus, isn’t just simple lines. The weaver’s must-have skills to fulfil the said requirements of fusing art into tradition.
“I also work with a group of weavers run by an NGO, Nidhika Craft, in a small village – some four hours away from Kolkata. These are skilled weavers exclusively training people in this craft”.
When it comes to sustainable fashion, Yachna is firm to use natural dyes and environmentally friendly materials. About her clothing line she says, “I started it five years ago, I know by the pace the environment is changing, one choice can make a huge difference. I am looking forward to this year for something good, I know there is a sense of awareness in our people, still, there are many more who are unaware of it. A small decision can change lives”.
And it is not just the environment, the choice of choosing sustainable goods can open avenues for the workers working relentlessly to hone this beautiful art of weaving. The handwoven material used for such clothing is an effort to say no to the machines and yes to the new world of enthusiastic weavers.
“This is my small contribution to promote sustainability, not only to the environment but in terms of creating jobs. Yes, this is my contribution to this town, hill and the culture that I was born into.”
We wish clothes wouldn’t define us, but it does in many ways. To the world around, our clothes are our first face that determines the impression we have on people. Perhaps, that’s the reason the academic institutions have uniforms to draw a line of uniformity for its pupils. If one is fortunate enough to have a choice in life, regarding the clothes one wears, sustainable luxury isn’t a scary choice.
Maybe next time, if you are in this lovely town called Kalimpong craving for a warm brew of hot coffee, struggling to find a cosy cafe in the busy street of Thana Dara, in a building that is home to a little cafe with thatched roof called The Art Café, Kalimpong, open wide facing the majestic mountains, you can find the owner of the cafe who is none other than Pravesh Chhetri, husband and business partner of Yachna. The duo runs a business of clothing and coffee in a shop that has been attracting the locals and tourists alike.
The Instagram page of Art Café, Kalimpong, is a delicious montage of sweet delicacies but one cannot overlook Yachna’s snippets that display her effort and her voice towards sustainability.
The fashion industry is infamous for being vain, in its pursuit towards the perfection of beauty. It takes immense courage to stand out from this crowd, to chose the path that is narrow and untrodden. Yachna is not only preserving culture in fabric but has chosen a fashion without compromise and it is time for us to make the same choice.