HasthaKatha’s range of handloom garments feature our country’s traditional art and craft
Dresses with a touch of Madhubani, jumpsuits with Gurjar embroidery, kantha-inspired wrap dresses and kalamkari scarves are the hallmark of HasthaKatha, an online enterprise launched by Ekta Jaiswal and Divya Lakshmi, alumni of National Institute of Fashion Designing, Hyderabad. The four-year-old initiative, that aims at slow fashion, weaves Indian folk arts and textiles into western wear.
“Hastha means hand gesture; we want to tell stories through our handmade, customised handloom garments,” says Ekta, who wanted to launch her own label ever since her college days.
Ekta and Divya graduated in 2013 and joined the design team of Kalanjali, travelling Andhra Pradesh and exploring textiles and folk arts. The duo was also among 30 finalists selected for an online portal’s fashion incubator competition to present their brand ideas. “Since the online market was not established in 2015, we couldn’t go ahead with the ideas,” remembers Ekta, who moved to her hometown Delhi to work in an export house for a year before she shifted to fashion social network Soon, she decided to start something of her own.
“Instead of mass-produced garments, our goal is to promote slow fashion — “Jisko bannne mein time lagta hai, usko kharaad hone mein bhi time lagta hai (What takes time to make also takes time to be sold)” and give Indian crafts a place of pride. Indian craftsmanship is seen in saris and salwar suits but our focus is to showcase it on western wear,” says Ekta adding HasthaKatha’s customers are mostly from Etsy, the American e-commerce platform.
Divya lives in Hyderabad and has left the enterprise, but the duo is still ‘close friends’. Ekta has converted a part of her home into a workshop/studio. “I often visit hand embroiders, painters and block printers to get work done on my garments and scarves. I cannot afford to hire them given that I work within a small space, ” she says.
Talking about how she crafts her ensembles, Ekta shares, “I create garments from only cotton and linen, inspired by crafts and folk arts around me, but prefer light embellishments. A western top painted completely in kalamkari or Madhubani is too heavy for casual wear and becomes expensive too. Wearability and cost are essentials for the enterprise. Not all of my garments feature Indian crafts; some are just plain for those who like it simple.”
Her scarves are priced under ₹1,000 and jumpsuits and dresses start from ₹1,500 onwards. Speaking of sustainable fashion, she says she uses only buttons made of coconut or shells and not plastic or wood. “Plus, leftover fabric is converted into masks,” she elaborates. Ekta adds, “With minimal people involved in my enterprise, the Photoshop I learnt during college is helping me edit Instagrammable photos.”