As ikat is historically rooted in many different cultures across the globe, the weaving techniques though similar, tend to vary. Patterns in ikat are produced from resist dyeing yarn before it is woven into fabric. Tradtionally, patterns were often derived from ethnic or religious symbolism or were developed for export trade. Over the millennia of its existence, ikat has come to represent status, wealth and prestige.
The ikat weavers of Andhra Pradesh have always been receptive to ikat's international market. Thus, ikat from the state features traditional as well as innovative motifs, ranging from floral and zoormorphic patterns to geometric shapes, ocassionally even including abstract designs of objects such as aeroplanes. Colours reflect local heritage and are bright and contrasting, as dictated by local heritage and lifestyle. Telia Rumal ikat, a name given to both the technique and the finished product, involves oil treating pre-woven yarn on top of resist dyeing. Chirala is known for its distinct Telia Rumal with square-like cotton pieces featuring motifs such as diamonds, flowers and elephants within the squares.
Single ikat from Andhra Pradesh - the saree on the dress form depicts traditional zoomorphic motifs while the fabric in the background depicts contemporary geometric motifs
Telia Rumal from Andhra Pradesh depicting the mallipu jasmine flower and mathikai, a local fruit
Bandha is the name given to the striking Odishan (Orissan) cotton and/or silk ikats. They generally feature motifs of flowers, stars, fish and zoomorphics including elephants and parrots. Abstract patterns such as wave-like designs and architectural forms may also feature in bandha. The state is recognised for its production of ikat sarees, yardages, dupattas and table linen. The prestige of silk ikat is that it appears to have a metallic finish, sometimes combined with brocade woven bands that appear along the borders and end pieces of the sarees. It is not surprising that a shimmering garment, with ornate embroidery would be so desirable. Ikat weaving which utilises both cotton and silk in a single product is particularly prominent with artisans in Sonepur. Ikat from Odisha (Orissa) is distinctive with its use of fine count silk and/or cotton yarn, dyed in striking shades of blue, red, yellow and magenta.
L: Striking Odishan (Orissan) cotton ikat, or bandha, with elephant motifs
R: Opulent Odishan (Orissan) silk ikat with metallic brocade borders
Motifs and colours in Gujarati ikat are similar to that of Odisha (Orissa), generally featuring flowers, stars and zoomorphics in shades of red, yellow and green. These are found in the surviving traditional double ikat known as Patan Patola and the modern-day alternative single ikat of Rajkot Patola.
L: A rare double ikat Patan Patola design featuring fighting elephants and tigers from Patan, Gujarat
R: A modern-day single ikat Rajkot Patola featuring elephants and parrots in radiant contemporary colours
In recent years, modernisation and diffusion of ikat in contemporary fashion has seen a change in designs and colour combinations. More often than not, fashion buyers from international markets provide forecasting details which dictate seasonal colour trends. As in earlier times, new designs and colour combinations in ikat continue to be developed through production for export trade. Aspects such as the modern-day use of eco-friendly synthetic dyes also play a role in the creation of contemporary motifs and colours. Though the use of natural dye in ikat has decreased over time it has recently regained popularity as an element of fine quality and the true art of ikat.
Traditionally, ikat weaving was used to primarily produce shoulder cloths, turbans, sarees and lungis, a type of sarong worn by men around the waist. Today, the technique of ikat dyeing and weaving has been integrated into contemporary items such as bags, bedsheets and even files. Iconic fashion brands such as Oscar de la Renta, Madeline Weinrib and Manolo Blahnik have been known to incorporate ikat prints in their high-end designs. Of ikat, Madeline Weinrib said that, "It's not a print, it's an heirloom."
L: Ikat printed dress, inspired by ikat from Asia and Africa by Oscar de la Renta
R: Ikat print employed in pumps named Daphne by Madeline Weinrib in collaboration with Manolo Blahnik
Images: University of Nebraska, Council of Handicrafts Development Corporations, Coroflot, Handloom House, Patan Patola Heritage, Satrangi Duniya, Vogue, Saks Fifth Avenue