Risha Dutta, a young and talented fashion designer from Guwahati, has quite ably infused the flavour of the north east in her innovative collections. Her brand, “Risha’s” is quite popular in India and across the globe. This 36 year old ambitious lass has experimented with a range of fabrics, especially the silk of Assam. She has a pair of magical spectacles that lets her look at the culture and traditions, and fashion in a different way. Her designs mirror the soul of northeastern India, to a larger extent. Our team got in touch with this versatile designer to know about her story. Here it is.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born and brought up in Guwahati, Assam. I feel very happy for being part a of this cultural hub of North Eastern States of India. What I am, is all because of my mother, Mrs Mira Deka; my father, late Prafulla Ch Deka; my family; and my hubby, Mr Arnab Sekhar Dutta. During my childhood, I was very keen in painting, fabric work, knitting and all of this led me to this glittering world of fashion and textile designing.
Since you are born and brought up in Assam, how would you describe the impact of your native place on your learning experience?
North eastern India has always allured and amazed me equally in manifold ways. My formal education in Fashion, Textile Designing, and Merchandising was in Delhi. However, my culture has always been an imbibed element in my blood.
The plethora of traditional attires and the colours of the regional ethnic wear, especially of different tribal communities of Assam and other states of North East made me an enthusiast about designing cloths & fabrics. Not just that, everything that has been at the core of our existence; our culture and way of life has always inspired me while designing. One example would be the Eri Coccon Headgear and neck piece, that I had designed for a fashion show. Evidently, and for obvious factors, my learning from Assam has been inspiring, and the surplus point is my visualizations and making the ideas happen is something I learnt in Delhi.
You have worked for a numerous brands. Tell us a bit about your experience with each brand. (Please throw light on the kind of designs you worked on for the brands)
I designed and merchandised garments for some well known brand like Zara, Oysho, Marks and Spencer, La Senza, Primark, Debenhams, Evans, etc. With every work assignment I acquired beautiful experience. When I was in Mumbai and worked for Garment export house, I got a huge exposure to the world of designing and textiles. For Zara, I designed for Kids; for Oysho I looked after the designs for Girls, and for other brands, I designed for ladies.
You have also been in teaching for some time. Which segments in your opinion, should be focused more?
Being a faculty of Assam Textile Institute Ambari, Guwahati in 2012-2013 was a different experience of my life. I was in the Fashion and Garment Department. I always advised my students that to become a good Fashion Designer they should have the knowledge of the textiles and culture. Earlier, they were using some old method of pattern making and budgeting. I reviewed as well as revised the course module and the contents based on my personal experience of Garments merchandising. These are the focus points I feel should be taken care.
Share your views on what needs to be done for the silk industry to utilize the complete potential and get it to a new stratum.
I think we have to upgrade the technology. The demand of our silk is huge, but our conventional means of preparing is time consuming, which is why it persuades us to depend on the Chinese raw material for meeting the deadlines. Plus, most of the people take shortcuts to chase the timelines, consequently, the importance of looms is gradually depleting. If the technology of our looms is upgraded to enhance productivity, and awareness is generated amongst the youth, in fact, people as a whole, then that would be helpful.
A greenhouse is a perfect place to grow plants. If we do sericulture in the greenhouse, then we will be able to improve the quality of the silk and reduce the wastage, in my opinion. To make it more sustainable, we can also use solar energy in the production process of silks.
A simple example would be the need of light for weaving and the warmth for drying the threads and fabrics, etc., for which solar energy can be used. Solar Thermal Power (STP) generating system is a proven renewable energy technology, which is also a cost effective way to produce electricity from solar radiation.
Considering the current scenario of Muga silk production in Assam, what is your opinion about retaining the GI tag, after it expires?
Yes, I am very positive about the GI tag for Assam. Look at the fashion segment now. Assam has more fashion designers now than there were in the earlier decades, and with the advent of various communication options, there has been huge promotions of the designs and handlooms. Most of the fashion designers from Assam have been showcasing handloom silks like Eri, Muga, and Paat. And, Muga has been fascinating people worldwide with its golden shine. These days, you get to see a lot of designs with Muga. The love for possession and the demand of Muga is huge. So, I’m quite sure that we will retain GI tag.
How does your brand support the local weavers?
My creations under the label of Risha’s have always been modern though, but have handlooms as the base. We employ local weavers to give us the authentic product.
Tell us about some/ any of your collections that has been widely appreciated.
I had the opportunity of showcasing my creations in North East Fashion Fest (NEFF) 2013, organised by Basic. I had designed a lehanga in Eri silk for Bollywood actress Soha Ali khan, the brand ambassador of NEFF. I felt honoured when she wore it and admired it. I had also designed a shirt for Joi Baruah, Singer and brand ambassador for cultural event at NEFF.
My creations for NEFF were purely based on experiments with Red and White Eri Cocoons and Eri Yarn in its raw form.
How much does Risha’s support eco-friendly/ sustainable fashion?
I support Eco Friendly fashion as I want to give back to the Earth for the amount of learning she has provided me with her fascinating creations.
Put some light on the demand of Assam silk or textiles, with a special reference to your collection’s sale and popularity in abroad. (Please mention what percentage of your entire designs or collection is supplied to other countries)
My clientele based abroad love Assam Handloom Fabric. They are crazy about the Assam Silk especially for Eri and Muga Fabric. I export handloom garments and meter Fabric, only.
Are your collections available online or any plans to do so?
Soon my collection will be available online for sale.
Muga Silk is one of the expensive varieties and produced in less quantity. How do you manage to acquire it for your textiles?
When I get an order for Muga. I always take some time from the buyers at least 3 months for the production to happen followed by designing. I have some suppliers in Assam as my stakeholders who provide 100% pure and quality assured fabric as per my requirement. I rely on them for acquiring fabric.
What is your vision for Risha’s?
My vision is to trade garments with my own designs under the brand name of Risha’s.
I want to popularize my modern designs made of handloom fabrics just to let the world know about the beauty and uniqueness of the north east.
Your comments on the illegal production of the items that are ought to be produced in the handloom.
In my opinion, in Assam there is no illegal production of the handloom items. But it is taking place outside the state and sent to the Assam’s market directly. There is hardly any protective measure for that.
In my opinion, the handloom has its own grace and aroma of the region. In its own capacity, even if it’s small, it supports a lot of local weavers and their skills. The manufacturing industries can definitely copy the design and meet the supply quantity with a good turn-around-time, but they will not be able to gain the grace and the purest form of beauty that only a weaver can do in a loom. Additionally, weaving has been in the culture for centuries. It is a kind of landmark for a place. The skills have been passed on to generations over the time, which will be lost if the industries start producing it. And, I feel handloom act needs to take measures on these issues.
A few words for the women of north east.
Women of North East are known for their hard work, liberal thinking, and culture. From a poor farmer’s family to an aristocrat’s, you will find creativity everywhere. My message would be to preserve and use this talent, and try your best to let the world know you and your native place really well. Be your own ideal, then you can represent your states better.