THE 'WHAT' OF NAMBI-KAI:
Hand-crafting is full of possibilities. Yet, in 2019, very few explored them deeply. Time had led artisans into diluting their own craft.
November 2019, Delshia, a Textile Design Student from the National Institute of Fashion Technology - Chennai, visited the key centres of Kalamkari in hope to learn the artistic side of Textile Design. She had done a project on Kalamkari techniques and processes, and went there in excitement to see how it was being practiced. Much to her surprise, she saw that the craftsmen, the keepers of Kalamkari, were unable to employ the traditional, sustainable practices onto the products that were being sold. In need of a livelihood, the craftspeople had to slowly forgo the essence of their craft: hand-painting and natural processes.
2020, her final year with NIFT, Delshia observed the market. Looked at the various brands that are offering Natural Dyed, Sustainable products. It was quite revealing. Some were doing amazing work, some were fabricating, some were outright lying, but none were working with Kalamkari the way she was inspired to. She picked up Kalamkari for her graduation project. The results of the project motivated her enough to work on her own label.
Nambi-Kai was born.
It was not easy to start an Indie-Kalamkari unit in Chennai. The designer, Kalamakari artists, dyers and tailors had to be on the same page! Traditional Artisans had to be okay with experimenting with their craft and working out of a studio. The designer had to resonate with the aesthetics of Natural processes. Dyers had to experiment to give us fresh colours and shades with Natural Dyes. Tailors had to work with 100% natural fabrics in constructing the garment.
It was chaos that was exciting! And, the result was rewarding.
THE HOW OF NAMBI-KAI:
The evolution of craft is often seen as mechanization or its ability to scale up. Here, we are looking at the evolution of motifs and the style with which the craft is expressed. We, as a team are inspired by Nature. We find the patterns of nature ever-fascinating and try to create them upon our clothing. Nature is organic and free, and we realized that we wanted to capture that freedom in what we offer.
Nambi-Kai was born with the need for the fluidity of art in design. The fabrics are hand-painted and the patterns flow freely. We do not give our craftspeople templates to recreate. We regard every craftsperson at Nambi-kai as an artist; they take time to practice drawing and painting freely on the fabric.
Every piece of garment made here is recreated and not replicated.
We also see that nature makes space for imperfections; nature progresses to perfection. We wanted this aspect of life to be part of our brand’s value. Nambi-kai makes space for the gentle, organic flaws that define craft and art; celebrating the little imperfections and allowing nature to work its magic upon the fabric. Embracing this principle has allowed us to see unimagined and absolutely unique results.
We are pleased with our beginning. Nambi-kai was started in hope to retain the essence of Kalamkari, while delivering well-constructed garments that drape beautifully; making silhouettes that are unconventional to sustainable fashion and traditional craft.
Today, we are a team that is able to deliver what we dreamt.
THE WHY OF NAMBI-KAI:
Nambi-kai exists to deliver Sustainability in fashion. For us, ‘Sustainability’ is a word with many layers. When we say a Sustainable future, it includes the future of the planet, craft, artists, and the studio; all of which has been heavily impacted by extreme commercialisation and mass-production.
We are aware that Fashion is an intricately woven, complex ecosystem; and that sustainability cannot happen by just changing one link of it. We have decided to change as many links as we can, at a time – increasing the sustainability of our dream, decreasing the environmental costs that our clothing demands.
These are the steps that we have taken,
- The clothing that we make is biodegradable and naturally dyed. It is safe for the skin and the earth.
- We sustain the hand-drawn aesthetics, organic and nature-friendly practices of Kalamkari.
- We recycle, reuse, and repurpose everything that is available in the studio.
- We upcycle our fabric scrap and collaborate with upcycling brands.
- We have a strict no-plastic policy.
- We collaborate with brands that hold the same principles.
- We have built a collaborative work culture in our studio, making space for everyone’s creativity, enthusiasm and joy in creating.
- Our focus is on building a healthy community, lifestyle and eco-system for sustainability. Our wages are fair, and so are our deadlines. We ensure all our members have enough and required holidays.