India — Creating patterns on clothes or fabrics using natural colours from flowers, roots, leaves, tree barks and berries has been known to humans since time immemorial, with the excavation of ancient ruins revealing man’s predisposition to beautify and experiment with colours. The techniques and dyes can be traced back to at least 300BC in written records, which speak about Alexander the Great encountering beautiful dyes in India. And today, in times of pandemic, as our sartorial choices drift towards fun, quirky yet comfortable wear, is the go-to option. From international labels such as Prada, Proenza Schouler, Stella McCartney, Dior to Indian designers, all creative minds have been toying with the methods of tie and dye.
Known for its flamboyant, unique and free-spirited pattern, tie and dye injects our wardrobes with a dose of optimism. “Tie and dye represent free-spiritedness and reminds of the free Bohemian era, which is important in the present scenario, as we all want to be free. The pattern entails a strong message of simplifying things and moving towards an organic future,” says designer Anupama Dayal. The trend was a staple in the ’60s when subculture and bohemian fashion raided the fashion spectacle.
These crafts have been made more popular, owing to realigned priorities, as we aim to celebrate the pieces that are not just frivolous playthings but rather carry with them the significance of history, age-old techniques and strike a sustainable chord in our closets. “Shibori has a spirit of handmade. Variations across the fabricare unique because of the process of hand resist dyeing. This is very appealing to the human eye as it celebrates unique patterning, which is organic and free-flowing in Nature,” says Yadvi Agarwal of Yavi.
Shibori, as the Japanese call it, is a dyeing technique. Traditionally, in the tie and dye technique, a white cloth is folded, bunched or twisted, then tied, and finally dipped into a natural dye. “It is a centuries-old technique in Japan, the artisans and master craftsmen from Gujarat adopted the elegance of Shibori patterns and have been working with this technique for generations now, with traditional colours such as red and yellow,” explains Agarwal.
However, over the years, many new variations and innovations of tie and dye have cropped up in the market. “The technique is almost the same. You tie and then dye, and in some cases, you dye and then tie, depending upon the pattern you want. There has also been innovation in terms of fabric. Earlier, only cotton was used. However now, many different fabrics are used to tie and dye. Even mixing of techniques is what we see now. In our lehengas, we have tie and dye fabrics on which we do batik work,” shares designer Monica Shah.
From tees, pantsuits, kaftans, pants, dress and even couture lehengas, the array of hues and colour palettes are a sight to behold. This amalgamation of modern silhouettes with traditional craft is what accords it a fresh iteration and appeals more to millennials. Stylists recommend enjoying the splash of colours and wearing it with ease, “Mix and match, but use the same colour palette. If one garment has a lot of colours, there is a lot happening, go minimal with the rest of the look, such as shoes. Don’t add a third or fourth colour to the look,” suggests stylist Isha Bhansali who believes the trend is here to stay and works well for men as well.