With its rich and varied textile traditions, weavers of Bengal have been practising these crafts for centuries, with an instinctive sense of colour, weave and harmony. These crafts were primarily pioneered to be used for Indian wears, ethnic clothes for centuries. However, in recent times, it has been extensively used by contemporary Indian & foreign designers to develop modern silhouettes. And now these vintage weaves fused with modern designs, found their way on podiums and in multiple fashionable boutiques.
Jamdani refers to weaving intricate floral, geometric and abstract designs on very fine cotton muslin, linen or silk base. Made by extra weft technique, jamdani motifs are one of the most time and labour-intensive forms of handloom weaving. These motifs appear to be floating against the sheer muslin backdrop.
Modernising of the weave has combined inventing designs, motifs, colours and textures. The Jamdani motif design themselves have evolved from traditional designs to more contemporary ones. In the history of Jamdani it was limited to traditional ethnic wear like sarees and dupattas but are now being redefined by adopting modern motif design on western silhouettes which were otherwise never associated with this craft.
Owing to its soft and fine quality, as well as its sustainable production, many designers, from India and foreign, have welcomed this craft into their design aesthetics.
Fashion designer Rahul Mishra incorporated Jamdani weave into western silhouettes in his Spring-Summer 2014. We see the indigenous jamdani motif design styled in new forms like a floor-length gown, handkerchief skirt, jackets and peplum top. The use of Jamdani for the midi length fitted dress is another beautiful fusion of the east and west.
Haryana based designer Rina Singh, on the other hand, experimented with both the composition and form of the garment. Her label, Eka's AW17 collection showcases a unique amalgamation of silk and wool for trenches, slip dresses and culottes. These widely popular western styles and softness of this muslin are perfect a match for workwear as well as casual attires.
Aneeth Arora’s cotton woven Jamdani dress for Péro was a part of an exhibit on Indian fabrics at Victoria and Albert Museum, London in 2015-2016. This knee-length pinafore dress is constructed in a fit and flare style with bold motifs interlaced as supplementary weft its hem and small ones scattered all over its skirt.
Abraham & Thakore, too, have used jamdani with their minimalistic tailoring to create workwear staples like jackets and square scarves.
Designer brands outside India as well have incorporated Jamdani in their sustainable line of designs. There is a vast range of styles including a variety of dresses, jumpsuits, jackets, trousers, shrug showcasing the beauty of this craft.
The beauty of Jamdani fabric lies in its motifs which appear to be floating on the body of muslin. Transparency of the fabric’s body, the density of the threads making up the motifs, and their proportional placement are all contributing factors. These motifs ranged from flora to fauna like tiger's paws, paisley, grapevines etc. Over time, these ancient motifs have become simplified. Today we can see minimalistic modern motif design in abstract geometric shapes along with varying size and colour, giving the fabric a modern appeal.
From a 6 yard draped ethnic Jamdani cloth, it today has evolved to a point where it is being celebrated across the globe in newer forms.