IF Ireland can do what they did with Irish linen, I’m sure we can promote khadi internationally too,” says designer, choreographer, stylist and educator Hemant Trevedi. The fashion veteran is adding finishing touches to his Rajasthan Heritage Week collection at his Grant Road studio at the Sheetal Design Studio (SDS) headquarters in Mumbai days before the show. For more than two decades, Trevedi has played fashion director at Sheetal but, much before that, he has taught, mentored and nurtured talents such as fashion stalwarts Anita Dongre and Neeta Lulla and models like Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Diana Hayden.
For someone who has been part of the industry for more than 35 years, he’s surprisingly frazzled about his collection that will be showcased in Jaipur on December 4. Promoted by Khadi Board and Government of Rajasthan, in association with the event’s creative director Prasad Bidapa, the event involved Trevedi working with weavers and craftspeople of Rajasthan to create a collection that reinvents local handloom.
That he is making a return to a fashion week ramp after many years — he last showed at the finale of the erstwhile Lakme India Fashion Week in 2003 — is testament to his personal regard for long-time friend Bidapa and his commitment to the craft. “I couldn’t say no to Prasad, especially when it’s khadi we are talking about. It’s a fabric indigenous to our land, a fabric that breathes on the body; it breathes of freedom. With this collection I want to take khadi beyond the simple folds of the coarse fabric you may see at a Khadi Gram Udyog,” says Trevedi.
This “intervention project”, developed in association with local Rajasthani weavers, is a fusion line of formal and semi-formal separates for men and women. Trevedi agrees that it is a complete departure from the Miss India pageant costumes and couture gowns that are generally associated with his design repertoire. “It is really about letting the fabric be the star. I was completely turned on by the khadi, the beautiful Kota doria, the hand block-prints with vegetable dyes, the ombre dyeing, the mysterious quality of the Rajasthani ghoonghat and the majesty of the Rajput turban,” he says of the collection that is bathed in black, terracotta, olive and saffron. While Trevedi hopes Rajasthan Heritage Week’s “Handmade in Rajasthan” agenda will go a long way in popularising khadi and other indigenous textiles, he hopes to refurbish the SDS brand, too, in the near future and look at more commercial retail opportunities for his own label. But he wants to do things on his own terms. “I don’t want to conform. I’d rather my clothes were appreciated as a form of art,” says the reticent designer. Which is why he’s working towards creating a haven at his new Alibaug home and hopes to call it Vedic Villa and convert it into a design school someday. “I’ve just turned 56 and I believe that age is just a number. I have taught and mentored in colleges since the age of 20. As a designer, one grows when one sees young talent. I’ve played father figure, big brother, harridan and given love and guidance to many young designers. People live for fame, name and respect. I only live for respect,” he says.