It’s the Malkha Project that brings designer Peter D’Ascoli and his partners Mayank Mansingh Kaul and Aneeth Arora together.
The project ensures that the benefits of selling each designed garment passes on directly to the farmers and weavers who develop the textile at the basic level. The goal of this partnership is also to create innovative, individual products.
However, for this New York designer, a tryst with India began around three decades ago when the Indian Government’s Handicrafts and Handloom Export Corporation first invited him to travel through the country, working with local designers and craftspeople to develop new products, as well as new ways of promoting rural crafts.
“At that point, the government may have considered the investment on research to be a bit of a waste. But, it was that year-long visit that helped create someone who, today, is so passionate about revival and development of Indian crafts. All these years later, I am back, based in New Delhi, working on handloom and handicrafts,” explains the designer.
While his work has taken him across the world, Peter points out, “The diversity in textile and craft and the techniques used here in India is incomparable. I have also worked extensively with the classic European tradition of fabric making, but no country for me is as rich in textile as India is. What we have here is a living legacy of craft. Be it the Malkha work by craftsmen in Hyderabad, the famous Kalamkari work, embroidery from West Bengal or the way cotton fabric is dealt with in Tamil Nadu, this is craft unlimited.”
Though a lot of Peter’s time is invested on industrial work — in collaboration with giant mills across the country, the Malkha Project is something that has been close to his heart.
“It was Mayank who first suggested we get together for such a project. He was aware that both Aneeth and I were people interested in old world crafts. While it was conceptualized around this time last year, we are happy to be able to travel with the creations designed under the project,” says Peter, who will be showcasing his work along with his team, in the city today.
While people may argue that by the time the craftsman gets his due, the presence of designers along the way ensure an increase in cost of the final product, Peter disagrees.
“The cost structure is the same as it would be with any Delhi-based designer. However, people have suggested that the craftsmen only need to be exposed to the market, for them to be able to help themselves.
This may hold true at some level, as there are various government crafts emporium filled with traditional crafts that provide that much needed window to a craftsman. But the nature of fashion is that it is constantly changing. Expertise on crafts, therefore, needs to work hand-in-hand with designers who are aware and more exposed to the global market to bring in innovation into the craft and design,” explains Peter.
Team Malkha Project will be showcasing their work at Cinnamon, off Vital Mallya Road, today.