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Jute Fabric


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 designer’s 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 people’s 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 garments.”

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 traders.

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 fabric’s 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 abroad.

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 summer seasons.

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 dignity.

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 developed.

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.