Bhoomi Dani, a revivalist in her approach, who after graduating in Textile Design from the National Institute of Fashion Technology in the summer of 2009, did what any graduate in their right state of mind would do, that is, got onto working a few years in the already defined fashion industry. It didn’t take her long to break free of the system and give into a greater sense of purpose that took up much of her dominant thoughts; this is when she made her way to Kutch, to relive the history of Indian culture by reviving its traditional textiles.
Thus Vraj:bhoomi was born in 2013.
“Since my college days, I was actively involved in researching, reviving and sustaining the inherent quality of traditional Indian crafts, and consistently seeking to push boundaries for the creation of a new aesthetic using oldworld and traditional processes,” Bhoomi told Apparel Resources India (AR), in an exclusive interview.
Joined by her partner, Priyam Shah, academically an aviator, and a passionate art-admirer who contributes through his business acumen and astute leadership towards making Vraj:bhoomi a perfect balance of craft and commerce, Bhoomi serves as the design brain of the label. She can be spotted on any given day, caught busy maintaining a perfect balance between traditional crafts and contemporary style to attain the perfect design statement which is at the core of Vraj:bhoomi.
“Each of us have our area of operation defined, hence we do draw a fine line to avoid conflicts. However in case of major decision making, we speak unanimously. We also believe, one of the key elements to synergy is accepting and relinquishing one’s area of weakness and letting the other partner take the shot resulting in collective strength finding its expression,” Bhoomi said.
‘Vraj:bhoomi’ is a concept-clothing label, that works with regional artisans in order to transform traditional hand block printing skills to create ethical, aesthetic garments.
“We are on a quest for the Indian contemporary, rooted in its traditions yet global in its charm. ‘Contemporary Revival’ as a design expression is a term that is held close and treasured by the label. We persistently seek to reintroduce traditional Indian textiles and lovingly hand-crafted clothing by skilled artisans to suit urban, chic and comfortable everyday fashion,” Bhoomi said.
Product and pricing
Priced between Rs. 350 and Rs. 6,000, Vraj:bhoomi specialises in womenswear, comprising an artistic mix of tops, overlays, kaftans, dresses, tunics, kurtas, sarees, scarves and dupattas. To complement the mix further, the label also provides women’s footwear including styles such as brogues, loafers and slip-ons.
Keeping in mind the needs of the avid shopper of today, Vraj:bhoomi also carries out a collection of assorted handmade sustainable gifts such as bags, cushion covers, diaries, bangles, textile jewellery, bow ties, bag charms, buntings, hangers, among other such products. The brand has also recently ventured into the world of menswear by introducing a limited edition collection of men’s shirts.
Imbibing Indian crafts into treasured pieces
With the current buzz surrounding sustainability, the fashion industry has seen a huge pool of new and upcoming design talent that like to call themselves ‘sustainable’, cropping up every other day. But where they fail to make an actual impact is in the longevity of their contribution.
It is observed in the fashion industry, that labels work with a particular craft and handlooms for a particular season, and once the season changes, the craft and artisans associated with it are abandoned.
Vraj:bhoomi, on the other hand, is sustainable and craft-oriented at its core. It is a ‘one craft label’, that is committed to revive and relive each craft of this cultural land (India).
“Currently we are completely focused on contemporary revival of a textile craft called Ajrakh; however, we would love to explore and work using other Indian textile crafts as well. The exclusivity of skilled craftsmanship mirrors the vibrant culture of Gujarat,” Bhoomi explained.
Extending the philosophy, the label would love to explore the world of intricate hand embroideries and beautiful hand weaves in near future. “For every collection, we design our range of blocks based on a distinctive theme and get it printed in a yardage form to make garments or do engineered layouts for sarees, scarves and dupattas,” she added.
Unlike the commercial production process, the idea of a product at Vraj:bhoomi doesn’t start at the design level – it begins as a shared effort between the designer and the craftsman. Vraj:bhoomi works closely with desert artisans of Kutch by providing various inputs that cover the fields of design, quality control, access to raw materials and production coordination.
“We work with the khatri community in Kutch. Ajrakh is a male dominated craft. It is a 10th generation artisan’s family who has been involved in the art of Ajrakh printing since the 15th century. As the family legend goes, ‘The king of Kutch invited their forefathers and that’s how they migrated from Sindh and started calling this tiny village their home,” Bhoomi elucidated.
“The most intriguing aspect of India apart from its rich culture and heritage, is the diversity and vastness offered by the Indian textiles. Right from the traditional, artisan-based textiles that can be traced back to ancient times, to the contemporary and globally-acclaimed, chic modern designs, Indian textiles have remained true to their core and essence”.
In the parched land of KutchGujarat, the intricate motifs are hand block printed on fabric, coloured with the dyes extracted from nature and dried out in the open sky as if an offering is made to the divine sun. This craft is called Ajrakh.
Designing and manufacturing
Being a textile designer, Bhoomi is skewed towards prints, weaves, textures and surface ornamentation. “I do not experiment a lot in terms of silhouettes. My focus is on comfort, ease and thus cotton in relaxed silhouettes characterise my creations. I try to deliver very comfortable silhouettes boasting strong sensibilities,” Bhoomi told AR.
Vraj:bhoomi tries and creates the perfect synergy of innovative patterns and immaculate tailoring, coming up with designs that suit the classic and contemporary in equal proportion. Various contemporary motifs are used alongside traditional blocks, which give this craft a perfect blend of both. “We are constantly exploring the vivid world of traditional Indian textiles and translating those to the most urban and chic outfits to suit our customers’ demands,” Bhoomi said.
“The exquisiteness of the label lies in the textile procedure, where materials pass through the hands of one artisan to the other, carrying forward the Indian tradition of hand made products that have a distinctive story to share”.
At Vraj:bhoomi, every collection is focused on reinterpreting the age – old technique of hand block printing called Ajrakh. Instead of relying on forecasts, the label has stayed true to its traditional colour palette – the shades and tones of these natural dyes are extensively dependent on their surroundings, and thus, the resulting designs are highly unpredictable, which make the garments even more unique and covetable.
Vraj:bhoomi has its own unique repertoire of motifs and print art works. The label is a 100 per cent ‘cotton only’ label and the fabric/ textile that are used, are never outsourced. The cotton-based fabric is supplied by their craftsmen on which they then print their in-house unique block designs in different colourways – depending upon the theme for the season.
The base fabric and the natural dye ingredients are sourced from the label’s own craftsmen based in Kutch. Their entire product, except the stitching, is also made in Kutch.
Available for purchase at various multidesigner boutiques ranging from the beaches of colonial Fort Kochi and Pondicherry to Mumbai International Airport, from high street fashion boutiques in Hyderabad and Bangalore to the Palace of Jaisalmer, Vraj:bhoomi supplies its merchandise to over 50 stores across India and internationally, in countries such as the US and the UK. The label also carries out its online sales via its own e-commerce website.