Dyed fabrics, Japanese Shibori and Rajasthani bandhni, made in Kochi? Sri Lankan designer Merian Dissanayake takes the art and craft of dyeing to a new high
The Rajasthani bandhni, tie and dye, sari made in Kochi? The famed Japanese printing Shibori from a unit in Kaloor? This may cause surprise and doubt but Sri Lankan designer Merian Dissanayake is scaling the art of dyeing to a new high in the city. Till a couple of years ago most boutiques, big and small, used to depend on North India for dyeing and shading fabrics as there was no unit doing so locally.
“It was either Delhi or Coimbatore but not Kochi,” says Merian who today is perhaps the biggest supplier of dyed fabrics to the local market – textile shops and boutiques. She set up her boutique The Reeta The Rose on Convent Junction recently.
Coming from a garment and textile business family from Colombo, Merian had this stream of business in her blood. Here tryst with Kerala began with her sister’s marriage to a Malayali from Thiruvananthapuram. That brought her mother to Kerala frequently. In 2007 Merian enrolled for a course in fashion designing at the Mangalore University. Her hobby, modelling, brought her to Kochi to participate in related shows. Simultaneously she did cameo in films.
The world opened itself to her through small assignments, modelling related travels and the fashion industry.
It took her to Mumbai where she says she learnt the ropes of textile and design industry working her way diligently to become senior creative assistant under designer Anand Gupta.
“I collected a huge experience in Mumbai; I learnt dyeing fabric in large volumes and working with 20 to 30 embroiderers, working for 10 to 12 hours with samples,” recounts Merian who is fluent in Hindi and Malayalam. Back in Colombo Merian’s family run Sriya Garments manufacturing units that produce thousands pieces of garments a day. She worked in the business for four months before deciding that the excitement of producing personalised couture was her niche and not mechanised and factory produced clothes.
At The Reeta The Rose, named after her mother Reeta Rose, she not only dyes fabrics but also does hand embroidery. “That’s my forte along with dyeing,” she says adding that her prêt line is on the cards.
Having worked in Mumbai and Kerala she makes a pertinent observation. “People in Kerala are discerning. They think before buying and collect all information they can, unlike in Mumbai people buy casually and everything.”
On her moving away from modelling, a hobby that gave her immense joy and exposure, into full time designing and a business venture Merian is pragmatic. “Modelling lasts five to six years and involves lot of travelling. I had that in mind.” She has modelled with FFK (Fashion Federation Of Kerala), FTV, Reliance Shows, Surya TV Live, Oh My Gold shows.
Setting up a business venture in a different country and a new city has not been intimidating. She has learnt from experience. Her unit at Kaloor employs seven outstation dyers and embroiderers. Before she established herself, Merian would take orders, collect and deliver fabrics herself. She dyes for most big stores in the city – Milan, Seemas in Aluva, D-Fab, Club Burgoyne, S-Designs and Zatin to name a few. She supplies to berries in Thiruvananthapuram.
The expertise of tie and dye and of Shibori is taught to the karigars personally. “Give me white fabric and I will match it with the shade you want,” she says confidently adding that she dyes not only fabrics but beads, ribbons and all accessories required to match the material.
Her inspiration is her grandmother who she says would embroider the most beautiful motifs. The wedding dress for former President Ranasinghe Premdasa’s wife was made by her. She remembers her grandmother talking about the intricate work of the karigars from Kolkata who worked at their unit. “Now my karigars here ask me to take them to Colombo for work,” she says. It’s come a full wheel for her, Colombo to Cochin and now pleas of taking The Reeta The Rose to the place it originally came from. Merian has come a long way…
source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Features> MetroPlus> Society / Priyadershini S / Kochi – April 22nd, 2016