Out of the multitude of industries paralysed by the pandemic, the worst affected remains the creative space. For designers across all spaces, from fast-fashion, graphics to motion art, making ends meet in light of the COVID-19 lockdown has been beyond challenging. For traditional and handicraft artisans who are thought of as belonging to the lower-income strata of today’s art-world, however, the pandemic has become a matter of life-and-death.
Already having lost a majority of their clientele to the cheaper, more durable garments manufactured by their fast-fashion contemporaries, this last generation of craftsmen has been toiling to keep their art-forms alive.
The absence of new clients, lack of demand for traditional designs, and overwhelming competition from the fashion world’s digital prints have brought countless artisans to the brink of losing their livelihood. Ancient Indian art-forms like Pichwai and Gond will soon be extinct unless India’s youth steps in by making a switch in their wardrobe.
Spatial, graphic, and visual-design veteran, Aaquib Wani has done these craftsmen a yeomen’s service by offering them an opportunity to preserve their legacy. This opportunity comes in the form of a renewed edition of Aaquib’s 2018 custom hand-painted wearables campaign. As part of his drive to create sustainable wearables customised to the likes of each individual, Aaquib employs the skill and labour of these talented craftsmen who despite all adversity, refuse to let the nation’s proud art-forms perish.
This campaign led by Aaquib’s eponymous design studio has sworn to devote all its proceeds to the ingenious artisans that will hand-paint the fabrics. Despite functioning as middle-men and overall promoters of these native crafts, Aaquib and his team have chosen to forego the profits entirely because, for them, the campaign is a means to repay the massive cultural and artistic debt the nation owes these keepers of ancient art-forms. Leather jackets, denim wearables, boots, purses, and accessories are on the campaign’s list of offerings.
Embellished with hand-painted designs, floral patches to patent motifs illustrated in vibrant colours, every customised jacket is unique and makes for an ideal gift, possession or fashion statement. Exotic art-styles like ‘Madhubani and Pattachitra have been revived and furnished frequently across pieces. Every piece in the collection is distinct owing to the painstaking embroidery. The statement pieces are populated by animated paint-jobs and meticulously-detailed embroidery. Other notable visual elements etched onto fabric include vivid desi fonts, akin to those found at the back of trucks or as part of rural graffiti.
Following the idea of upcycling, Aaquib encourages clients to provide his team with outdated or block-coloured jackets they own, but never end-up wearing. Using their skill, his team of talented artists manage to revamp even the most boring, basic-coloured jackets.
Taking over two weeks to finish a single hand-painted wearable, Aaquib’s studio ensures that the artisans they partner with have the liberty to add their unique touch to every undertaking. The result of this collaborative effort is the breath-taking collection of custom wearables that Aaquib whole-heartedly wishes to share with the world.
Having already worked on prestige projects like Art-installations at the NH7 Weekender, spatial design for Adidas, Gap and Levi’s events, wedding design and art-direction at high-profile weddings, the custom hand-painted wearables, to Aaquib, this campaign is a lot more than just another notch under his belt.
Says Aaquib, “India is very rich in art-forms, native exclusively to our country. Unfortunately since the onset of fast- fashion most of these art-styles are taken for granted, depriving artists of the recognition they deserve. If no one steps in to ensure their survival, many of these art-forms will soon go extinct. The entire hand-painted wearable campaign was something I started as an experiment to assist traditional artists. But since the outbreak of the pandemic, I believe this project has grown in importance to become the final straw ensuring the sustenance of these destitute artists.”
Homegrown has always stood by individuals, communities, and enterprises that celebrate Indian culture and give it a voice amidst the din and clatter of western trends that our country lies torn between. Aaquib Wani is one such visionary creator whose artistic agenda spans beyond just creating fine art. It extends to curating a platform for the survival of indigenous talent. We strongly urge our readers to share the pioneering work his studio is doing to ensure the same and to also consider shopping the surreal designs they offer.
Find them on Instagram here.
Bonus: Here’s a BTS film capturing Aaquib’s creative process behind the vivid visuals he had created for Boxout.fm’s Weekender event at Auro Kitchen and Bar, Delhi.
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