A 9 hours drive further north-east from Naharlagun, one of the twin capital cities of Arunachal Pradesh, takes one to the lush paddy fields of Tirbin. Sitting in Delhi, Jenjum Gadi, a fashion designer from Tirbin reminisces his colourful childhood in the village. Much of his collections are a reflection of the days he grew up in rice fields chasing butterflies and bees, watching ants cluster in their hills and even catching grasshoppers and eating them! As he puts it, his past collection ‘Insecta’ is “completely dedicated to the creepy crawlies” of his hometown.
It is usually a long and challenging journey for aspiring designers of the nooks and crannies of India to find success and happiness in their career, especially if it means shifting base to big cities such as Delhi. Despite of the hurdles, we witness the stories of rice fields, wild flowers and the colours of traditional gale wrap-arounds travel from Tirbin to Delhi.
His collection “Tribal Connection” is inspired by Gadi’s “mother’s beautiful wrap-arounds which we call gale in our tribal language.” Gadi belongs to the Galo tribe who are spread across the state of Arunachal Pradesh. The motifs and patterns found in several aspects of the tribe serve as crucial starting points of Gadi’s creative journey as a designer. Having observed his mother use the traditional handloom in his childhood, Gadi began to understand craftsmanship and the use of sustainable fabrics at an early age, definitely much before the fashion industry was hit by the sustainability spell. “I was very lucky when Lakme fashion week team ask me to join them for a show in 2018. For that particular show I worked with weavers from Nagaland.” Gadi’s collaboration with Echo Exotic Society of Dimapur for Lakme Fashion Week 2018 showcased in Mumbai was an eye opener for many interested in sustainable fashion. His collection was a fusion of traditional and contemporary motifs.
With the rapidly growing global fashion industry, it is about time to think about the ways in which it can be made less polluting. As Gadi puts it “every designer must incorporate their own sustainable approach in the making of their collections. It will make a huge difference. The process has already started and lots fashion houses, both big and small, are making an effort to reduce the strain on the environment.” When asked about how his label Jenjum Homme would contribute to a greener label Gadi declares, “I see myself working more with weavers from northeast and learn more about textile from my region and take Jenjum Homme to the global markets. ” Clearly the answer to a sustainable fashion label lies deep inside our cultural roots which Jenjum is determined on excavating. The world should only hope that there are more designers thinking like Jenjum Gadi.
Wise words from the artist: Work hard but don’t have too much expectations. If it happens to work out, thumbs up, else the only route is to work harder to move ahead in the journey. There are no short cuts to success, it requires work and hours of labour so be strong mentally.
Words: Animesh Gautam
Photos: Jenjum Gadi