It was a creative cocktail of contemporary designs by northeast Indian fashion designers and traditional tribal wear by the region’s weavers at the recently concluded North East India Fashion Week (NEIFW) in the capital of Arunachal Pradesh.
The three-day fashion event, hosted by designer Yana Ngoba Chakpu in her home state, provided a rare platform to the weavers of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland to share the stage with fashion designers.
If Arunachal Pradesh’s Apatani tribal group’s traditional skirt from the 1960s got noticed at the fashion week, which concluded on Sunday, long ear pieces made of beads for men by a designer also caught attention of many.
“It was a great experience. We presented our collection at a fashion week for the first time, so it felt really good. We saw some good designs. Now we know how to improve our work,” Hibu Ollo, Chairman of self help groups Parii Bogo, Katu Ajing and Pai Women told IANS.
While it was a learning experience for Ollo, designer Rupert Wanlambok from Meghalaya is content with the response from the attendees that included Satya Gopal, Principal Secretary, Finance, Government of Arunachal Pradesh; Chief Secretary Shakuntala D.Gamlin and Bamang Felix, a Member of Legislative Assembly.
“We didn’t sell much, but a lot of people including dignitaries came and showed interest in my collection. We got to communicate with a lot of people and make them understand our work. That’s important,” said Wanlambok, who showcased a range full of saris, anarkali suits and gowns.
“We celebrated the union of weavers and designers,” he added.
Designer Nana Gona from Arunachal Pradesh is delighted as her fashion accessories for men were lauded.
“I wanted to show that men can wear funky accessories too. Why should they only wear jewellery made of gold or silver’ Beads are a good option. They are not only stylish, but it’s also a way to financially help the bead workers,” said Gona, who also presented a collection that consisted of skirts, blazers and more.
The fashion week also saw dokhonas (the traditional dress of the Bodo women) in colours like orange, yellow and green, strapless gowns, knee-length skirts with shell work on them, maxis, belt made of colourful threads, ethnic coats for men and hand-knit creations, among others.
There were a few showstoppers as well. Actor Adil Hussain, who has appeared in Bollywood as well as Hollywood films including the Oscar-winning movie “Life of Pi”, walked in a creation by weavers of Arunachal Pradesh.
Wrestler Koombang The Storm looked chic in a Naga outfit by designer Gloria Ovung. Model Opang Jamir, who even pierced his ears to promote accessories for men, increased the style quotient of the event when he walked as a showstopper for Gona.
The fashion event also provided a platform to northeast Indian models, who were taught the nuances of catwalk by Jamir, who represented India at Mr International 2012 in Bangkok.
As promised by Chakpu, NEIFW turned out to be different from the other fashion weeks of the country — not only in terms of the collections, which highlighted tribal wear of northeast Indians, but also the attendees.
The front row at such events are generally graced by socialites, but at NEIFW most of the seats were occupied by young women and men along with children, who were accompanied by their stuff toys. There were also women who carried their little ones on their back.
There were more supporters of the 40 participants of the event who hooted and applauded with a lot of enthusiasm.
Will there be a third edition of NEIFW’
“If I continue to get support from weavers and designers, then we will return next year with new collections,” said Chakpu.
But right now her focus is on a boutique that will be set up in London soon.
“The NEIFW collection will be available in London by end of this year. We (including Wanlambok and Assamese designer Arita Kashyap) will go to different districts of northeast India to encourage weavers,” she shared.
Her aim is to explore different fabrics of all northeast tribes.
“We need to keep our tradition alive. So we also need support from designers who should be willing to use fabrics beyond their tribe,” she said.