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Reviving northeast's heritage fabrics: Meghalaya designer Daniel Syiem

Posted on Aug 20 2014 | IANS

By Raymond Kharmujai, Shillong, Aug 20 : Meghalaya's leading designer Daniel Syiem, who has wowed fashion connoisseurs at top-notch fashion events in the country, takes inspiration from the rich culture of his home state and says his motto is to make traditional fabrics mainstream.

"I am very inspired by my rich culture and tradition. Also, my collections are deeply inspired by the beauty of my state and I interpret it for the global audience," Syiem told IANS in an interview.

"I believe in revamping craft to infuse new life into it and giving it a unique design aesthetic while retaining the traditional flavour," added the designer, who runs a fashion house in collaboration with his friend, Janessaline Mary Pyngrope, since 2011 with the same motto.

Currently Syiem, who made his Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) debut last year, is working on "reviving hand-woven fabrics" from Meghalaya.

"Particularly the heritage fabric called Ryndia. Its making process has been passed down from generation to generation of weavers. It is versatile, rare and has unique thermal properties," said Syiem who was introduced to the fabric by the late Mr Tennyson, District Sericulture Officer, Ri-Bhoi District, Meghalaya.

What interests him about the fashion industry?

"It's very gratifying to see people wear your creations. The industry is a place where creativity, culture, beauty and clothes - all come together and it's a lot of fun! Everyone aspires to look their best and why not?" asked Syiem, who is climbing the ladder without any formal qualification in designing.

"I'm self-taught and I have learnt through trial and error and hard work," added the graduate from St. Edmunds here.

"It all took place gradually ... the more I explored my creativity and my skills, the more things fell into place. I'm always learning."
In fact, he created his first piece 18 years ago for his grandmother. "She loved it and encouraged me to pursue my dreams," he said.

Asked what the USP of his designs is, he said it is to "make the fabric hero of my design interpretation".

"My label is minimalist with clean lines, drapes and silhouettes to enhance the natural beauty of the wearer.

"My focus is to revive the heritage fabrics of the Northeast, mainly Meghalaya, by designing ensembles with traditional weaves and fabrics and give them classic and contemporary style."

With his creation, he targets "a niche segment of women who appreciate natural, hand-woven and organic textiles and unique designs."

Now well-established in the fashion and style business, he had tried different jobs before he realised that "design is my passion and this is what I'll continue doing".

His label - Daniel Syiem's Ethnic Fashion House - has started retailing at various stores in the capital and Mumbai.

"We're taking one step at a time," he said and added that he and Janessaline work with the same objective.

"I bring in the design aspect and Janess brings in the entrepreneurial abilities. She has worked at grassroots level with weavers and we both had a vision to elevate traditional and ethnic fabric into modern, stylish international fashion wear.

"We have a very clear objective of protecting, reviving, and uplifting the traditional fabrics of the Northeast and promoting our weavers.

"When we launched the fashion house, one thing led to another and now we are taking our label to national and international arenas! We're different because we work with timeless natural fabrics and unique designs."

As far as fashion shows are concerned, he is of the opinion that the events in Mumbai and Delhi are "definitely more profitable in terms of visibility, buyers' interest and exposure."

"They create great platforms to bring together designers, artists, buyers, media and of course clients," added the designer who has been on a "roller-coaster ride" since the LFW debut.

(Raymond Kharmujai can be contacted at rrkharmujai@gmail.com)

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