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Auroville Born Designer Unveils the Drive Behind her International Brand
Rangoli is an international brand of women's garments. Prema Florence Isaac shares the reason she started her fashion brand with an inspiring story of a precious hand-woven cotton sari that is translated into a resort-wear collection called Holy Days
The ancient tradition of weaving saris has been the founding culture of rural communities across several Indian States. Each State treasures a group of unique patterns and stories depicted in the weave. Inspired by these ancient traditions Prema Florence Isaac uses hand-loomed cotton weaves that date back hundreds of years from the West Bengal Region.
Keeping these ancient traditions alive sits firmly at the heart of Rangoli’s Mission and Values. Working directly with weavers and suppliers Rangoli ensures the traditional patterns and methods are preserved for future generations. Each Sari can take up to a month to create and Rangoli prides itself on playing an active role in preserving these precious skills and supporting these traditional communities.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that the looms don't fall silent, that the rhythmic sound continues to weave the traditional textile. We stand by our promise of infusing tradition with growing trends without compromising on the values of our label.”
Prema Florence Isaac - CEO Rangoli
The Emergence of Radha
A mud-walled hut, a single bright bulb above, a lingering aroma of ginger from a brewing pot, a familiar rhythmic wooden sound, rough hands holding me. Warm wind blows in from rickety windows. I breathe in the freshness as I look outside to find the sun setting at the horizon. I bask in the simplicity and purity of rural life. Cradled in the firm arms of my creator I wonder why those sharp eyes look down at me with such fondness and pride. I feel precious.
Wrapped carefully and nestled in my cradle I wait. Dusty streaks of sunlight find their way in through the keeth roof. A man bends over his wooden loom and starts weaving, his deft fingers pushing the shuttle from one side to the other. An inquisitve boy sits next to him, learning. A woman walks in, toddler in her arms. She looks at me in appreciation and caresses me, her fingers warm with love. I fall asleep to the most musical lullaby, the soothing rhythmic sound of the working loom.
"BEEP BEEEEEP, HONK HONK," a loud shrill cacophony startles me awake. "Where am I?" I peep through the little slit in the soft fabric that covers me. I am dodging through dense traffic on a motorcycle. I am fastened to my seat with a rope.
"MOOOOOO" a cow shoves me. "Ouch," a rickshaw handle pokes. Someone shouts desperately from across the road while running towards a bus he is sure to miss. A buffalo family casually walks through the unruly traffic seemingly unaffected by the comments of bystanders. A concrete jungle with unreliable traffic and broken roads grows denser by the mile.
A loud screech and a sudden break puts a stop to my rocky journey. I read a sign, "Basak." My rider? creator? father? talks to someone inside this shop as he loosens the rope around me. "Gopal, I brought one more." Gopal signals him to come inside the shop as he continues buttering up a customer. There are glass windows and shelves filled with colourful textile. Lady customers are busy chattering while persistently bargaining.
We are taken into a room at the back. Gopal walks in. His busy voice asks, "How much?" My father, in his gentle voice, reminds Gopal about the labour and time put in behind his work. Gopal looks at me closely, his eyes in awe yet holding back his appreciation. He checks for defects and grades. I feel small and wonder what is going on.
I don't have time to assimilate this experience.
I chance upon a first glimpse of myself against the glass panels. I gasp in awe! Realisation dawns on me. My odyssey begins.
I look around me. Gopal has left me alone in the warehouse. Flashes of colour are stacked from the floor to the ceiling. It's warm in here and dark. I feel lonely and lost. Dust settles on me as days pass by and I wait. "Will someone come for me?"
I sense a soft touch, it reminds me of my mother. Fingers running across in appreciation and praise. My long wait turns into bleak hope. I am hand-picked by Prema Florence Isaac from the house of Rangoli. I breathe a sigh of relief as I naturally bond with her and fall asleep, feeling treasured.
"Om, anandamayi, chaitanyamayi, satyamayi parame," a traditional sanskrit hymn wakes me from my deep slumber. The fragrance of incense purifies the air. "Where am I?" Women are giggling, men are chatting. As everyone settles into their place the rhythmic hum of machines reminds me of my working looms.
A large hall with tailors on their machines, a master cutter snipping snapping, ladies sewing embellishments by hand, this is Rangoli - a vibrant environment of workers, designers and clients. "Dong," I hear a bell. It's time for a short tea break. Everyone gathers outside, under the trees. As they talk and joke around I begin to appreciate the natural surroundings of Auroville. I feel here a new sense of well-being, a deeper truth touches my heart. "Dong,"
A young designer approaches me. She lifts me up preciously, looks at me, appreciates every detail on me and suddenly with a graceful swish drapes me on herself as she looks into a large mirror. As we both admire the reflection I am reminded of my destiny. My identity unfolds itself as she swirls around in joy feeling more complete. "I am a beautiful cotton saree made with ancient hand-loom traditions."
I am marked "HolyDays." The magic begins.
Imagination and design concepts are put together with chalks and scissors. I am laid on a large table. Three heads together matching my two tones of colour. They bring out their wide range and combinations of materials, colours, patterns and styles. "Snip, snip," a cut here and a cut there tickles me. My precious borders are aesthetically placed on the silhouette. I am attached together by pins and fitted to a mannequin. At a distance the team is squinting eyes and bobbling heads as they discuss more details. "I like the excitement, the creative energy!"
I lose myself into a reverie of the rough and sweet journey. A sense of gratitude envelopes me - from the looms of creativity into the lap of endless opportunities. My heritage will continue from generation to generation. I, Radha, thank you deeply for journeying with me, for acknowledging me.
I live on, in every article born of Rangoli!
You can take part in this journey of the birth of Radha. You can wear Rangoli. Feel the elegance.
Feel the natural fibers against your skin knowing that Rangoli fosters and incorporates a business ecology that balances growth with the human element of production.
Full range at:
Amethyst, Chennai - www.amethystchennai.com
Pappadam, Chennai - www.pappadum.co.in
Khazana, Ahmedabad - www.khazanastores.com
La Maison Rose, Pondicherry - http://www.facebook.com/
Auroville Boutique, Auroville and Pondicherry
Check out our video on handloom weaving on youtube: http://youtu.be/