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Fashion entrepreneur

‘Each of our designs is unique and has a story to tell’: Sukanya Bhattacharyaa of Prathaa

The Kolkata-born fashion entrepreneur talks to My Kolkata about her journey so far, her latest collection, inspirations and more

Subhadrika Sen | Published 17.05.23, 03:50 PM
Models displayPrathaa collections

Models displayPrathaa collections

Photo courtesy: Prathaa

Technology, over the last few years, has no doubt given a mega boost to the fashion industry. From connecting and building a community of artisans from all over India to marketing and making finished products accessible to people, Indian brands are also encouraging people to make conscious fashion choices.

The emphasis on locally made, conscious designs in fashion has seen the biggest boost in online brands who market mainly through social media. One such online brand, Prathaa, launched by Kolkata born and raised designer Sukanya Bhattacharyaa, is climbing the stairs of success since 2016. Not only does the brand have a strong community of more than 500 artisans, who work tirelessly to come up with innovative designs, it also aims to keep fashion clean, green, comfortable and classic.


In a candid interview with My Kolkata, Sukanya talks about her label and its objectives, her endeavour to build and revive a community of traditional artisans, her latest collection and more.

Sukanya Bhattacharyaa, founder of brand Prathaa

Sukanya Bhattacharyaa, founder of brand Prathaa

My Kolkata: What inspired you to launch Prathaa in 2016?

Sukanya Bhattacharyaa: As a passionate traveller and explorer, I developed immense respect for the traditional Indian arts and weaves — and the incredible talent behind them. However, I also realised that many of these art forms and weaving techniques were slowly disappearing due to a lack of awareness and the aggressive rise of fast fashion. These factors laid the foundation of Prathaa in 2016.

How would you describe the design aesthetics of your brand?

Comfort and classic are the two ‘C’s of our designs. At Prathaa, we strive to balance contemporary silhouettes on the canvas of Indian traditional weaves and mostly embody a bohemian style in our clothing line. Our aesthetic is that of a free spirit, blending different cultures and artistic expressions into an eclectic style that emphasises organic elements and nature. We incorporate various patterns, materials and styles to create clothing that is both chic and bohemian in appearance. Our silhouettes often blend Indian and Western cultures, incorporating different crafts into our designs.

How has living in Kolkata influenced your designs?

As a Bengali, who spent a significant portion of her childhood in Kolkata, it has undoubtedly played a crucial role in shaping my aesthetic sensibilities. Growing up, I was drawn to handloom cotton and everything artistic, influenced by the tastes of the women in my immediate family — my mother, Amma (paternal grandmother), Didibhai (maternal grandmother) and so on. Kolkata is a city known for its vibrant arts and crafts scene, and being exposed to this from a young age has led me to incorporate traditional techniques and materials into my brand’s offerings. One of the clusters we closely work with is the loom artists in West Bengal.

A model wearing a Khesh sari

A model wearing a Khesh sari

Your brand aims to support traditional craftsmen and artisans. How do you manage that?

We are driven by the vision of reviving the forgotten arts and weaves of India by incorporating them into our designs and providing a sustainable livelihood to the communities of weavers and artisans, who are the backbone of our brand. We consider these talented individuals to be an integral part of our extended team.

To achieve this goal, we intervene at the raw material stage and work closely with the weavers and artisans to create designs that showcase their skills and preserve their traditional techniques. Our focus is not only on creating beautiful garments but also on telling stories behind each weave and design. We have worked with a variety of weavers and brought their unique stories to our community of ‘Prathaa women’ (the name they have given their community of customers). By doing so, we hope to create a bridge between traditional craftsmanship and contemporary fashion, while empowering the communities we work with. The journey of our brand is defined by the 500-plus artisans we work with currently.

Tell us about the three traditional weaves that you like to work with and why.

Khesh: It tells the story of upcycling in a clear and impactful way. This weave is relatively unexplored in the realm of garment-making outside of West Bengal.

Kotpad: We have also explored the unique Kotpad weave, a vegetable-dyed fabric, woven by the tribal weavers of Mirgan community in Kotpad village of Odisha. This weave has been around for centuries and has been extensively revived in the form of saris. However, Prathaa has made an attempt to explore this weave in garment form. The fabric is extremely comfortable, making it an ideal choice for everyday wear. Since it is woven by local tribes, they derive motifs from the woods and nature itself as if they are communicating with nature. One will find motifs like fish, peacocks, and river water, woven into the fabric. The major themes that these tribes choose to weave are leaves, animals, rivers, and farms.

Jamdani: Our Jamdani Bindi collection, which was launched in 2018, is still a bestseller. We have a community of weavers, our extended team from West Bengal, working on this weave. The fluid and lightweight material adds to the design elements and comfort of the final garment, making it perfect for the Indian climate.

A Jamdani dress on offer

A Jamdani dress on offer

Sustainability in fashion is an important conversation now. How does Prathaa take environmental friendly measures?

I believe sustainability is the final destination. We are on the journey of conscious fashion, staying mindful all through. From developing and sourcing at the grassroots to creating a safe and hygienic workspace and trying every day to maintain a lower waste workspace — the team at every level has been inducted into this “value system” of the brand. The entire team is mindful of the stationary used and the packaging that goes out to the customer. We have mostly discarded plastics from our customer-facing interactions and also in the workspace that the team operates from. The biggest win is when we see every member of the team bring about a change in their daily lifestyles too. Laying this conscious track in the journey, we are definitive of transforming the “ripple into the wave” reaching the destination — the sustainability goal — more effectively.

The newly launched Shvet collection

The newly launched Shvet collection

Please tell us about your latest collection, ‘Shvet’.

Prathaa sets a fresh mood with the very first collection of 2023, welcoming happy sunshine of summer in the comfort and style of the ‘Shvet - the enchanting whites’, interpreted in its much-awaited Signature Bindi Collection of the year. It is an amalgamation of two inspirations — the versatility of a blank slate, along with the power and steadfastness of the ‘Bindi’ in the Indian tradition. It celebrates the purity of the soul in every human, while respecting the external imperfections that are relative, transient and superficial.

With this collection, we have kept the colours and silhouettes in mind to be able to provide all our Prathaa women the freedom to redefine and innovate their personal style. We have chosen a neutral colour palette to rewrite our story with flexibility, fun, and blossom in its creativity. ‘Shvet’ is all set in white to welcome summers in comfort and style, designed in fluid, relaxing yet chic, and size-agnostic designs.

We worked on a new technique altogether — hand embroidery techniques such as beadwork, kantha and cross stitches along with different materials like beads, shell buttons and sea shells. The motif has been created in different sizes using the gradation method. We have used threads and beads to give structure to the motif, and thread, beads, and buttons as the filling. One will see intricate handwork detailing of beads, french knots, buttons, shells, and kantha work on the neckline, pockets, collar, and sleeves. All of this and every piece is hand embroidered with love.

Jamdani Bindi collection, which was launched in 2018, is still a bestseller

Jamdani Bindi collection, which was launched in 2018, is still a bestseller

Three summer fashion tips that you would like to give our readers (both men and women).

  • During summer, it is advisable to opt for light-coloured clothing as it reflects sunlight and keeps the body cool. Light colours like white, pastels, and soft shades of pink, blue, and green are perfect for the season. Dark colours like black, navy blue, and brown absorb more heat and can make you feel hotter.
  • Go for light breathable fabrics, like handloom cotton and Mul. It is essential to choose fabrics that allow the skin to breathe, especially in summer. Handloom cotton and Mul are lightweight and breathable fabrics that keep the body cool and comfortable. These fabrics are also eco-friendly and sustainable, making them a great choice for conscious fashion enthusiasts.
  • Loose-fitting clothes are more comfortable and airy, and keep the body cool. Opt for comfortable and loose-fitting clothes like cotton dresses, loose pants, and skirts, which can help you stay cool and fashionable at the same time. A-line and flares are the silhouettes to go for.

Most importantly, keep yourself well hydrated, and don’t forget the sunscreen for staying fashionable inside-out!

A white dress from Shvet collection

A white dress from Shvet collection

In the coming days, Prathaa plans to expand the brand by remaining focused on its vision. The brand aims to grow its community of weavers and artisans in rural areas while exploring weaves and arts from more clusters and expanding geographically. Additionally, we intend to increase its community of Prathaa women by enhancing communication about conscious fashion and sharing stories behind each piece of clothing.

'I see Kolkata as a conscious and artistic woman, and I would dress her up in fabrics that reflect her versatile and vibrant personality', feels Sukanya

'I see Kolkata as a conscious and artistic woman, and I would dress her up in fabrics that reflect her versatile and vibrant personality', feels Sukanya

If you were to look at Kolkata as a personified young woman, how would you dress her up — in terms of fabrics, colours, crafts and type of attire?

It may sound a little cliche but it is the quintessential red and white that I visualise immediately.

I see Kolkata as a conscious and artistic woman, and I would dress her up in fabrics that reflect her versatile and vibrant personality. For instance, I would choose a beautiful red and white Jamdani saree or an Ajrakh print dress that showcases her appreciation for art and crafts. These fabrics would also be breathable and comfortable to wear in Kolkata’s tropical climate.

In terms of colours, I would stick to the classic combination of red and white, which is an integral part of Kolkata’s identity. I would also add a pop of colour such as bright yellow or green to reflect her liveliness and energy.

When it comes to attire, I would choose something that balances tradition and modernity. For instance, a sari paired with a frilled blouse would represent her love for traditional clothing, while a comfortable summery short dress would showcase her contemporary and bohemian side.

Overall, I would dress up Kolkata in a way that celebrates her unique and progressive personality.

Rapid fire:

A model flaunts a Kotpad weave

A model flaunts a Kotpad weave

  • A trend that is sure to pick up in 2023: Comfort and conscious fashion through minimalism and versatility. Your attire should be functional yet chic.
  • One trend that will go in 2023: Pastels and tie and dyes are expected to gradually fade from the fashion scene in 2023. Also, the traditional legging designs, cold shoulder and camouflage prints as design silhouettes and prints are not preferred any longer.
  • An underrated fashion choice: The rich prints and weaves of India. This by itself enhances the design quotient of the garment.
  • One look for work and a casual day out: For work, it should be a comfortable handloom cotton dress or tunic with scarves and for casual dressing, it should be a dhoti/skirt with a top or tunic.
  • A holiday-wear look: Kaftan and shorts, a long flowy, loose-fitted dress, capes and scarves.
  • Summer colours you love: White.
Last updated on 18.05.23, 02:54 PM

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