Weavers and designers from North East get the biggest platform to showcase their worth nationally and internationally as Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh prepares to host North East India Fashion Week (NEIFW) from August 19-21, 2016. An NEIFW collection boutique will be set up in London.
Until about three decades back, in the late Eighties, loin looms were found in every home in the North East. Girls were taught the art of weaving by their mothers. However, with industrialization, the loin loom has become a dying art form. Remarks Yana Ngoba Chakpu, Chief Operating Officer, NEIFW, “There is still no substitute to intricate handloom designs. There are only a few active weavers or should we say artists of this dying art form left. Central and state governments are trying to fund the revival, but the benefits are not reaching designers and weavers. Fashion shows are organized by people who do not belong to the domain, only to usurp the Government funds for the North East, and these end up becoming more of skin-show events, earning North East a bad name. Not a single dress showcased at such events gets sold.”
“Buyers from across UK, US, Africa and other countries have expressed immense interest in the North East tribal weaves and handicrafts. However, what gets represented from India internationally are the mainland Indian designs only. A lot many buyers abroad, and even in India, still do not know of our existence. Our traditional art and culture, handloom, clothes etc., is very different from the mainland Indian style,” adds Yana.
It is with the intent of bridging this very divide that she started interacting with designers, weavers and handicraft artisans of North East who have been working diligently to promote the North East style; journalists, actors, models, performing artists and NGOs besides her senior designer colleagues from Delhi, Bangalore, London, New York, Washington, Paris and Philippines for their support to globalize the handloom and handicraft of the North East and thus encourage weavers and artisans to revive dying art forms of the region. This will also ensure a constant livelihood for the rural women and menfolk as well. “I have been showcasing loin loom weaving for the past 10 years nationally and for the past three years internationally and have received very encouraging response. In fact, I was nominated as the best creative designer in London, UK. This reinforced my resolve to promote the loin loom and the weavers as much as I possibly can and this is when the idea of organizing North East India Fashion Week (NEIFW) was born,” says she.
NEIFW will probably be the first ever week in the annals of Indian and world fashion wherein weavers shall be at the forefront, sharing the stage with the designers. No fashion week or show has ever attempted to do this.
In September this year, a NEIFW Collection Boutique will also be set up in London where the best of designs, weaves and handicrafts shall be retailed to international buyers. NEIFW will provide designers and weavers of the region an opportunity to retail their merchandise online to the entire world and participate in international fashion weeks of London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles and more…something they may not be able to get ever otherwise. NEIFW has been conceptualized by Affluent Ray of Light (ARL) which involves globally Hollywood and Bollywood actors, fashion designers, supermodels, NGOs, event managers, hoteliers and senior members of the press.
Hollywood and Bollywood actor Adil Hussain is the brand ambassador of NEIFW and graced the occasion with his presence. Opang Jamir (Mr. Earth India 2011 and Mr. India International 2012) was the showstopper at the launch fashion show.
Other important designers and weavers’ representatives are Jack Tanya (Arunachal Pradesh); Arita Kashyap (Assam); Rohila Engtipi representing the Karbi weavers; Koombang-TheStorm representing the Mishing Weavers (North East India’s first pro-wrestler, actor and action director who runs an NGO by the name of Nari Shakti); Rupert Lynrha (Meghalaya); Charlie Methane (Mizoram); Opang Jamir (Nagaland); Tina Mena representing Arunachal Pradesh’s Upper Dibang Valley weavers (the first female mountaineer from Arunachal Pradesh to reach Mount Everest; Hibu Ollo representing Arunachal Pradesh Lowar Shubansiri weavers (runs Parii Bogo, an NGO for unemployed village women); Annam Chakpu representing Arunachal Pradesh’s Kurung Kumey weavers; Nana Gona, fashion designer from Arunachal Pradesh; Gloria Ovung, fashion designer from Nagaland; and Sange Siring representing Arunachal Pradesh’s West Kameng weavers. All of them represented their weaves and designs at the launch fashion show.
“A border between technology and craftsmanship is not something we are trying to draw. Rather, we are trying to blend the two through NEIFW,” concludes Yana.