Golden Threads Of Assam Is Reviving Muga Silk With The Help Of Four Homegrown Designers

Golden Threads of Assam seeks to share the untold story of the rarest silk and in the process help weavers and rearers to promote their goods.
Golden Threads of Assam seeks to share the untold story of the rarest silk and in the process help weavers and rearers to promote their goods. Golden Threads of Assam

A progressive initiative aimed at preserving Muga, Assam’s pristine golden silk, alongside restoring it from the onslaught of climate change, the Golden Threads Of Assam was initially conceived in 2016 and recently presented a magnificent exhibit, its seventh iteration. They seek to share the untold story of the rarest silk and in the process help weavers and rearers to promote their goods. This is done through multiple awareness programmes conducted across several other districts of Assam. The small-scale initiative has evolved into an independent fashion establishment and continues to champion the exposure of Muga silk internationally. 

"The Golden Threads of Assam initiative aims to preserve our ancient traditions by revolutionising the way we engage with them. It is not merely a spectacle, but a movement to empower 10,000 weavers in their own homes to produce, wear and weave Muga, our prized golden thread that is currently being consumed by the international market, unbeknownst to many. Through this initiative, we seek to showcase this hidden strength and take it to the world through diversification, thus sharing our rich traditions with those who are unfamiliar with them. This journey is a testament to our commitment to preserving our age-old heritage while also adapting to the global world."

President, Riniki Bhuyan Sharma

Golden Threads Of Assam

"The Golden Threads of Assam initiative is a true reflection of our commitment to preserving our cultural identity while also adapting to the changing times and engaging with the global community. We want to invite the world to appreciate the intricate craftsmanship of our weavers and the timeless beauty of our fabrics."

Lead Project Coordinator, Cynthia Evelyn Doley

As part of the initiative there were four key designers that showcased their work at the exhibition, namely Payal Chadha, Sreyanshi Sonika, Anna Kaushik and Amritraj Bora. Designs from the House of Payal Chadha are transformational and bespoke. Her outfits are timeless and spell out class in every way, and for all occasions. Her collection for Golden Threads of Assam, is called Power Angels and showcases power dressing, designed in Muga Silk. We had a chance to interact with Anna who is the creative behind the homegrown brand Raul. The founder shares her insights on their non-traditional approach to Muga that gives it a rather modern take. 

Could you elaborate on the aesthetics that inspire the clothing and the process behind channelling quiet luxury?

Raul is a street style brand  which wants to connect to the masses. We want to speak to the ordinary people who love fashion but cannot afford high-end labels. Raul is very dear to us because it is name after our founder’s late brother who lost his life while saving his friend from drowning, this label is dedicated to his legacy.

The collection that we put up in collaboration with Golden Threads of Assam called 'Artisans to the Streets', is made of namely three textiles Muga, Eri and Mulberry silk. The colour palette is duotone, with the primary colours being beige and white. We did not use any dye since it tends to take away the beauty of Eri silk. The silhouettes were mostly inspired by the street style and hip-hop culture. The ready to wear collection also utilised existing silhouettes to grab the attention of a global audience.

The keyword that we initially used was 'royalty' because when we talk about Muga, we think about luxury. So we thought about a Royal family which was dark, who looked ostensibly perfect but clearly had struggles on the inside. The capsule collection represented six different personalities who were cohesive. We also drew inspiration from television shows like Wednesday, Game of Thrones, The Rings of Power, and House of the Dragon.

Could you tell us about the different characters involved in the narrative and how clothing was used to communicate integral parts of their personal story?

The father was wearing all white crop coat and straight cut pants, depicting the calmness in him. He was a man who sat on a throne with immense responsibility, but always yearned for a simple life. The mother was wearing a Halter neck shift dress with crystal work, depicting the fact that she married young and gave away her freedom to all the glitter masquerading as gold.

The older son, the successor to the throne was wearing a laser cutting oversized shirt with cargo shorts, depicting that all he wanted was to run away and live his life the way he wanted but what stopped him was the privilege of a comfortable life. The older daughter was wearing crochet shirt layered over a co-ord set with patch work, depicting her confused identity. While a part of her feels masculine she is also connected with the feminine.

The younger son was wearing  a puffer jacket with shirt and cargo pants, depicting his inherent responsibilities as he wanted to be the next successor and yearned for his family’s acknowledgement. Lastly the younger daughter was wearing a co-ord top and skirt, again depicting her privilege and the constant feeling of incompetence.

How are you reinventing the landscape of Indian clothing and in the process shifting the conversation towards Indian weavers and craftsmanship?

Earlier in life I personally was not a very big fan of traditional attire or textile however my time at NIFT Hyderabad changed that perspective. I got deeper of handlooms and soon started a sustainable brand called Aapoon with my school friends. This was during the lockdown and I learnt some invaluable lessons there. I believe that the younger generation are not seeking out our traditional textiles because the market is flooded with other choices that seem more fun, attractive and innovative. As a designer it is my job to change the industry and inculcate India's diverse art and culture.

Presently due to social media there is an over-saturation of visuals and aesthetics. To tackle this our brand is catering to the sensibilities of youth. at a reasonable price while retaining traditional methods of production. The ultimate aim is to narrate stories through clothing. Most importantly, our brand is nothing without the team. We are the brains but they are the skilled executors. The only way to reinvent the fashion scene is to be true to the art and fair to the craftsman.

Muga is a fabric which will unfortunately go extinct in few years, if not properly conserved. As a next-gen designer I see it as a personal responsibility to preserve Muga and its ethos. The youth is the future and the only way to make them aware of our tradition is by showing that this textile can also be playful and wearable.

Golden Threads Of Assam

Designer Amritraj Bora also shared his views around the collaboration. As the huge initiative seeks to preserve and promote the age old heritage treasure "Muga" which the natives proudly call 'golden threads of Assam'.

It is one of the biggest and most progressive initiatives taken by Golden Threads of Assam to preserve and promote the age old heritage of Muga silk in the time of fast fashion. Through this initiative they are empowering over 10,000 local weavers and hundreds of skilled artisans across the nation. Hence saving the art of local craft and in the process preserving and promoting the art of weaving, which is dying slowly. As a designer/artist I have worked with many fabrics but nothing comes close to Muga. The fabric is Couture itself and one embraces luxury through the entire process of reeling the texture, the richness and through the colour. The collaboration between Amritraj Bora Couture and Golden threads of Assam is all about art and lifestyle. We are creating a wide range of apparel from pret to couture with immaculate hand embroidery that involves handpicked and handmade home furnishings and tableware as well.

Amritraj Bora

Homegrown also spoke to Sreyanshi Sonika, the founder of homegrown brand 'The House of Kosh'. She has a rather unique approach of exploring designs through fabric manipulation and often plays with interesting details of asymmetrical patterns. The womenswear label is offering elevated ensembles greatly inspired by Persian motifs, Kosh believes that luxury is not measured by its price but by the story it embodies.

How do you go about putting a contemporary spin to the traditional crafts in order to appeal to a younger audience? 

Fashion today is no longer limited to a particular section of the society who would seem ‘fashion forward’ or ‘in vogue.’ Every one has their own spin on it, be it through co-ord sets, power suits or anarkalis. To make our pieces more accessible and versatile, we primarily focus on repurposing & rediscovery. Retaining the craftsmanship through our intricate and vibrant embroidery details, we have created a range from Boxy Jackets- style it with a kurta or a basic tee, to Peplum Blazers- dress it up with a skirt or dress it down with a pair of bell bottoms! The options are endless and timeless

The textile is an integral part of Assamese society, how do you manage to integrate it with modern silhouettes?

Our capsule collection on Muga, unveils a fresh narrative of edgy silhouettes and traces of vibrant hues. Fusing heritage with elevated occasion wear, we have created these pieces that ought to become classics in your wardrobe. Mainly structured jackets, trench coat, relaxed trousers, ruched top to name a few. Be it in the form of the traditional colour palettes of bold reds and greens picked from the Assamese gamusas and mekhala chador or motifs from the cultural influences, we have always tried to blend culture with the modern aesthetic. The golden lustre of Muga is hard to miss, it exudes a sense of timelessness and chic sophistication, which is an integral part of today’s luxurious fashion staples. 

How are you reinventing the landscape of Indian clothing and in the process shifting the conversation towards Indian weavers and craftsmanship?

The very foundation of the fashion industry are the nimble hands of our artisans and weavers. Be it in the form of weaving, printing or embroidery, their skills are immutably woven into each product that is manufactured. Spending time at Kanchenjuri, Assam working with the master weavers through the entire process of weaving Muga and Eri silk, right from extracting yarns from cocoons, to winding, warping, spinning, design punching, weaving, it was a step closer to realising the true beauty and expertise of ‘Handmade in India.' Theirs is a story we embody in our products, from our embroidery karigars ( Artisans) to our printers and dyers, the skills are infinite.