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A tale of weaves

PROFILE

Designers Bappaditya and Rumi Biswas are rooting for hand-woven silks and cottons in arresting hues and eye-catching textures. Their signature brand, Bailou, retailed from a quaint little store in Hindustan Park, is an eclectic line of saris, woollen scarves and home accessories. You can also lose yourself picking up bedspreads, table linen, cushion-covers and quilts, each intricately designed by the couple and brought to life by the nimble-fingered weavers of Bengal. Interesting textures and bright, bold hues are Bailou’s leitmotif.

The store Byloom threw open its doors in April though the brand, Bailou, was launched in 2002. In the initial years, Bappaditya, who graduated from the National Institute of Fashion Technology in 2000, and his wife, Rumi, a textile designer from the National Institute of Fashion Design, exported Bailou’s scarves to Europe and Asia. They also attended trade fairs to learn about market trends. The couple met at an export firm in Calcutta in 2002 and married in 2003.

Their turning point came in 2005 when the Delhi Crafts Council invited them to hold an exhibition of hand-woven saris in Delhi. All 87 saris sold out. Today, Bailou has stylish women like actors Aparna Sen and Moon Moon Sen, Priyanka Gandhi and Meira Kumar as clients.

The designers love to experiment with textures and colours. Byloom, their two-floor store, offers saris in everything from sequinned matka silks (with sequins woven into the fabric rather than being stitched to the surface) to mixed jamdanis with embroidered pallus. “We work with Bengal’s weavers who are adept at spinning cotton, wool and silk with design inputs from us. We started out by working with two looms and today work with 500,” says Bappaditya, who encourages his weavers to play around with bright base colours.

Handmade bedspreads, cushion-covers, table linen and quilts are also popular buys at the store and are available in cotton and silk. Byloom also stocks up on furniture and jewellery made by Bengal’s artisans, along with brass tableware and a range of handmade soaps and toiletries.

Rumi wants to launch a new line of menswear in cotton and silk complete with kurtas, shirts, waistcoats, jackets and dhotis. Baby gifts also interest Rumi who rues the lack of good baby clothes in the market.

Byloom products are available outside Calcutta at Vaya in Mumbai, L’affaire in Delhi and Man Mandir in Chennai.

Trends

Buyers are now sensitised to the need of promoting Indian handlooms, says Bappaditya. But some traditional handlooms are dying and need design inputs and marketing support to survive, he says. “We want to encourage people to buy handloom products and hope that Byloom will grow into a young person’s shopping destination like Pantaloons and Westside,” he adds.

Bappaditya feels that products with interesting textures are trendy. Also, weaves should be fashionable so that people choose to wear them as officewear, daywear and even partywear.

 

PRODUCTS

The duo loves designing saris. The ‘disco khadi’ with sequins woven into the matka base are still a rage and sell for Rs 5,500 each. The cotton version costs Rs 3,500.

The popular Abir range symbolises the ‘mota kapor’ or basic cotton sari worn by Bengali women during the Swadeshi era. Prices are a modest Rs 750. With directors Rituparno Ghosh and Aparna Sen dressing the stars in these saris in films like Noukadubi and Iti Mrinalini, women actually walk in and ask for the Abir sari.

Bailou has experimented seriously with textured jamdanis, matkas and tussars mixed with other varieties of yarn for a chic look and an elegant fall. Cottons too are transformed by adding the fast vanishing nakshi paar (intricately woven border) to give it a traditional Bengali look. “Young women love our jamdanis. The sari — like the one Priyanka Gandhi wore to Parliament recently — is in huge demand,” says Rumi, who has also designed a Shibori (a Japanese-style stitch and tie-and-dye) sari.

Then, there are their signature woollen scarves in double and triple layers, just right for winter. These are priced between Rs 650 and Rs 1,350.

Bedspreads, table covers, runners and cushion covers are available in an array of designs like kantha work and colours. Table cloths are priced between Rs 650 and Rs 800, while the king-size bedspreads cost Rs 1,250. Quilts too come in pretty colours. The king-size quilts are tagged at Rs 2,300 for cotton ones and Rs 4,500 for the king-size silk ones. The quilts are exported to Japan, Australia and France as well. Baby quilts are priced between Rs 550 and Rs 1,500.