We started our business by designing small collections of loungewear and scarves, made out of fabrics we personally designed, woven firms in the towns of Mangalagiri and Pochampally, in the southeastern coastal state Andhra Pradesh. Here we found the handloom sector to be the perfect match for our modest business requirements. The small production runs the handloom sector allowed meant we could weave just 10 to 12 pieces of a unique design without running into problems. We realized that the handloom and craft industry of India, with its small decentralized workshops, was in many ways the ideal research and development laboratory, as well as being an efficient production center for every design professional dependent on small batch production. We strongly endorse the rapid turnover and economies of scale found in the Indian craft sector. As a tiny design company marketing largely handmade products, this incredible infrastructure gave A&T an extraordinary flexibility and a unique advantage, where our innovations and flexibility in design and our ability to handle low product multiples, were perfectly matched to the requirements of the specialist high-end retailer willing to pay higher prices for product exclusivity.
The design vocabulary of Abraham & Thakore is strongly shaped by the craft and textile traditions of the country. Starting with our NID education, which placed a tremendous emphasis on the study and understanding of the Indian textile tradition, the language of the brand developed in conjunction with the vocabulary of the traditional handloom resources, providing us not with not only our raw material and production base but design inspiration in many cases as well. As we developed new collections we looked at varying textile resources, from the Jamdani weavers of West Bengal to weavers from Maheshwar, block printers from Barmer and bandhini craftspeople from Bhuj. Simultaneously, as we increased our engagement with different textile traditions, craftspeople and weavers, our design vocabulary also became more diverse through the search to find ways to create contemporary expressions while using the traditional language of Indian craft in simple and direct ways. Our minimalistic design ethos also requires that we constantly seek out ways to evolve a design language that, while being reductive, does not lose the essential qualities of the traditional craft vocabulary we reference.
The following images are from various Abraham & Thakore fashion collections designed over the years. With each collection we try to develop a fashion language that addresses the particularity of India’s unique clothing sensibility. Coming from a tradition of unstitched clothing, we work with the sari in particular, searching for ways to contemporize the sari form and make a modern fashion statement. In every collection we combine both elements of tailoring and stitched construction with unstitched, draped garments, creating clothing that while relevant to contemporary living also engages with the traditions of Indian clothing. They are illustrative of the role traditional Indian textile has played in the development of our design concepts and how we are inspired by its vocabulary—the particular techniques germane to each craft tradition. We also borrow ideas and concepts from other sources when appropriate, and we also interpret different traditional dress languages by tweaking the vocabulary, by playing with proportions, and changing the context of specific elements. These images are organized roughly according to the different traditional Indian textile “groups”—by which I mean the clusters of different craft techniques and traditions that developed in different regions throughout India, with practitioners gathering in various villages, towns and cities—we focus on in our different collections. These are all living traditions and the fabrics are developed from the many different craft and textile centers spread across India.