From gunny bags and packing material to the glamorous world of
high fashion, jute fabric has undergone a spectacular metamorphosis.
Prabha Malhotra , a fashion designer, recently presented a new range
of haute couture garments and accessories created from jute fabric
blends. She has launched this rough and rugged sack material into the
arena of high fashion.
As a fashion dsigner
Prabha Malhotra was in search of new materials to experiment with.
She began a relentless search for something different perhaps
even ordinary which she could convert into attractive
garments. She felt that cotton, silk, and synthetics had already been
exhausted from a designers point of view. During a visit to the
trade fair grounds Pragati Maidan she came across
samples of jute-blended fabrics. This stirred a memory. She had seen
a photograph shot in the 1940s showing two Englishwomen wearing
dresses made of jute. The whole concept just fell into place.
Until now jute had been
identified as a crude material used mainly for gunny bags or
hessians. But over the last few years jute has been blended with
synthetics or other natural fibres to produce attractive decorative
items, blankets, bags, table mats, wall hanging etc. This encouraged
Prabha Malhotra to create new products out of jute.
This was the beginning of
a new range of high fashion garments and accessories which have been
introduced in the market. Talking about her experience Prabha
Malhotra says, Designing fashion garments and accessories was
not an easy job for me. I had to take into account many aspects
availability of raw materials, the limitations of the fabric, the
target markets. I studied the fabric in the context of peoples
habits, lifestyle, weather conditions in India and abroad. As a
result, the fabrics are coordinated to give the dress a sense of
harmony and yet are practical. I have also used pure and basic
colours so that the beauty of the fabric is not lost in the process
of designing. But to make it more attrative I have used printing,
applique work, cord work, patch work, embroideries to decorate the
The initial reactions in
the market are of amazement and disbelief. This is simply
incredible garments made of material previously used for
packing! Will it not feel as if you were wearing a sack?
And yet the response has been favourable.
Recently, the Ministry
of Textiles sponsored an exhibition to highlight jute products where
for the first time jute garments were displayed. A fashion show
highlighted the new creations in jute. The display helped to guage
the public response to the idea and the acceptability of jute as a
fashion fabric amongst the fashion connoisseurs, exporters and
The fashion show lasted
for 45 minutes where the range of garments for men and women designed
for domestic as well as international markets were shown. The
fabrics unique texture and fall were appreciated and the next
day, devoted to the sale of these garments, attracted many
individuals, buyers and boutique owners. By the second day, of the
150 dresses on sale, 100 had been sold. Response from foreign buyers
who took away samples to Korea, USA and Canada is still awaited.
Prabha Malhotra is
pleased with the success of the exhibition hoping that it would
create an awareness of the versatility of the fabric. She also hopes
that increased exposure will bring forth more clients from India and
The people are at present
willing to accept innovations in the fashion world and this is the
right time to introduce jute into the market. The new range has a
soft laundered look, almost the natural texture of the ed by Prabha
were for winter wear. But she is working on developing a soft linen
material from jute so that she can make a range for the spring and
The designer range for
men is suited to meet the most exacting and sophisticated standards
of the consumer. Jute is presented in its most natural look for the
men. Soft pleats and high waists are in for trousers made
of blended jute in muted colours. The fabric will grow did with
Since the latest trend in
fashion is to focus on the ethnic styles, Prabha has crated a full
range of accessories ties, belts, bags, scarves and jewellery
giving the consumer something rustic. The natural colour of
the fibre combined with bones, stones, metals and leather forms
exotic and fascinating ornaments.
In order to make
sophisticated products like fashion garments, jute needs to be
blended with fibres like wool, nylon, rayon, acrylic or
polypropylene. These blends enrich the fibre in feel, appearance,
durability, resilience and washability. But to arrive at the correct
methods of blending and processing, technologies have to be
The advantage in using
the jute blended yarn is the cost factor, jute being one of the
cheapest fibres available in India. The cost of the end product is
reduced substantially as jute is the dominant component in any blend.
Various organizations are
together working towards promoting jute and exploring possibilities
to introduce it into the fashion world. The jute industry is an
agro-based economy dependant on its use in packaging, sacking and
carpet backing. This vast industry is facing devastation due to the
keen competition from synthetic packaging materials.
Development of the
product into a refined yarn blended, bleached, dyed and
chemically finished- for use in innovative products and styles
will give the industry the much needed encouragement. Jute fabric
has been launched from the dreary world of sacks into the glamorous,
high profile world of fashion.