Cataloguing natural dyes and nettle yarn from the alpine countryside, knowledge keepers in Ladakh have conserved organic textile practices for countless generations but on the sweatshop-fuelled conveyor belt of micro-trending, their old world resilience is slipping away into oblivion. Founder-designer Rina Singh, who launched her slow fashion brand Ekà in 2011, was among the social entrepreneurs patronising UNESCO's sustainable initiative Great Himalayan Exploration at Bikaner House in New Delhi last month. Leveraging the ethnological episteme of woollen goncha robes and herringbone jackets, her 2023 Fall-Winter collection insinuates a high-altitude bohemianism while retaining her signature block prints, billowy silhouettes and episodes of sublime embroidery.
While most of the front-open, button-down midi dresses in this capsule imbibe sombre maroons and charcoal greys upon chequered wool, we also find the serendipity of variegated stripes erupting in reminiscence of Buddhist prayer flags favoured by mountain bikers. With delectable mauves and yellows punctuating the colour narrative in a modernist Amrita Sher-Gil derring-do; a mirage of an incorrigible nomad, artistic and androgynous, flickers upon the horizon of a sun battered landscape. Enriched with thick piping details, criss-cross lace inserts and raglan sleeves, the pleated panels airily construct a poetic fantasy.
The creative impetus behind Ekà's timeless, soulful and everyday luxury apparel was originally a counterstrike to the wastefulness of fleeting fads that afflict our wardrobe with instability. Believing instead in reverse-engineering fabric use by anticipating small batch output, improving accuracy with automated jacquard looms and referencing local context by engaging indigenous weaving clusters, the studio has configured an identity of conscious clothing that finds beauty in authentic expression.
Caressing the clean lines of an ageless body bereft of unhealthy beauty standards, a functional roominess characterises the atelier's creations, their anti-fit tailored tunics and shirt dresses representing a versatility you would be hard pressed to find in other brands. Emulating the fortitude of Indo-Tibetan tribes like Bhotias who would wait months for snow to thaw so foraging trails would open up, Ekà does not hasten its design process, scrupulously vigilant that all its raw materials are ethically sourced and premium quality. Following a stylistic blueprint seamlessly merging layered 19th century English bustles with a free-spirited Pahari femininity, Rina introduces a transcultural ingenuity and moody self reflection to comfort wear that cannot be overlooked for its romantic, old world charisma.
Explore the latest collection here.
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