Fashion designer Benorita’s interpretation of ikat dyeing technique

“Ikat of Odisha is known for its finesses and exquisite craftsmanship.  Historical research has evidence that it has roots in much of Asia and some in Africa. A little research revealed that “Ikat” word is derived from the ‘Magnikat’ in Malaya language. It means to ‘tie or bind’,” says young fashion designer Benorita Dash.

Today Odishan textile enjoys broader acceptability thanks to its typical weaving designs. Not only in India, but it is exhibited, worn and lauded in many foreign countries. Ikkat, the dyeing technique mostly witnessed in western Odisha, has a major role to play in this context. The subject lures many students and researchers but a few of them only take the pain to visit the interior pockets to practically witness the hard effort the weavers put. Benorita Dash lately had visited different villages of western Odisha to explore Ikkat. She said, “I visited few villages of Subarnapur, Bargarh and Sambalpur districts. In Sonepur I met weaver Biranchi Meher who described me how his whole family works across the day to weave a saree in six days. He intimated that they get yarns dyed from outside, take orders from vendors and also meet customised orders.”

“Another weaver Bhagirathi Meher works on a bigger scale. He narrated that after dying and winding of yarns, it is rolled in a rod and then taken to the looms. He has employed many people in the village. I bought one silk saree from him,” Benorita added.

Asked about her findings she said, “Many products can be crafted out using Ikkat. Most of the Ikkat weavers in Odisha belong to Meher family and the legacy continues from generation to generation. Seeing the demand of handwoven fabric many other communities have also entered the trade.”

Fashion designer Benorita Dash

“During my visit, I interacted with age-old weavers who spent their whole life to sustain the art. I also found that the weaving method is also differs from place to place.  They have different motifs and the fabrics are named after places like sambalpuri saree, Nuapatna silk etc. The motifs are inspired by flower, tree, wheel, fish and religious symbols like conch etc. Weaving is a family business and one loom is shared by all of the family members. Ikkat is famous for its colour, design, and motifs. According to the weavers there are four lakh weavers operating around one lakh looms in the state. However, the introduction of power loom made the products cheaper and resultantly largely hampered the manual weavers,” the designer added.

“Ikkat is a resist dyeing technique, where resist dye formed by binding individual yarns with a tight wrapping applied in the desired pattern. The yarns are then dyed. The binding may then be altered to create a new pattern and the yarn dyed again with another pigment. Weaver’s repeat this multiple times to get the elaborate, multicolored pattern. The binding removes once the dye is done. In other resist dying techniques such as tie-dye and batik, the resist is applied to woven cloth, whereas in ikat the resist is applied to the yarn before they are woven into cloth. Surface design is created in yarn rather than on the finishing cloth, that’s why in ikat both sides of fabric faces pattern” says Benorita.

Why did you fall in love with Ikkat? She said, “Since childhood whenever I saw beautiful women around me including my mother in that blurry textured fabric I got fascinated. Later I came to know it is called ikkat. In nutshell, I can say the pattern texture colour and finishing of the fabric that kept attracting me and my quest ended in this beautiful fabric called ikat.”

So how Benorita uses ikkat in her fashion strata? “Being a passionate designer I try to include ikat in my products. And if it’s not in form of textile, I try out print techniques,” she replied.

Daughter of Puspashree and Bijan Ku Dash of Bhubaneswar Benorita did her plus 2 from the Biju Patnaik College in Bhubaneswar. She then completed her Advanced Diploma in Designing from IIFT, Bhubaneswar and later joined AIFT, Bangalore for a Bachelor in Design. She has also done masters in designing from the Lovely Professional University (LPU) in Chandigarh. When it comes to technology she excels in Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, and lightroom while she also is good in photography, up-cycling, hand-painting and design process. She worked as a faculty at NIFD, Bhubaneswar for a brief period in 2014 and taught Pattern making, Embroidery, Jewelry making, and Design Process. Later she became the section in-charge of FABINDIA and placed in Whitefield, Bangalore in 2015. The designer has so far organised her own fashion shows in Bangalore.

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