Isha Nabar’s sense of fashion is eternal, because it is ethical. The very multi-talented fashion designer “Isha Nabar” uses a variety of hand stitched techniques on the hand woven fabric of khadi to do her bit for the betterment of the environment.
Isha, an accomplished fashion designer of Indian origin, is based in New York and commenced with her multi-disciplinary learning at the Parsons School of Design, New York. Her niches of interest included fashion, business and jewellery design, the knowledge of which has actually given her quite an edge as a designer. Her much discussed initiative, ‘Charkhara’ (colloquially translated as wheel - 'Charkha' and green - 'Hara') is based on the design of a sustainable garment that is completely hand-stitched, through the usage of a hand spun fabric that is ‘Khadi’. This fabric, constituted of natural fibre, has played a significant role in the cultural, political, and socio-economic past of the country as many of us know. It was introduced by Mahatma Gandhi during the colonial rule in India, when he himself spun the yarn on the wheel to instil a sense of self-reliance amongst people.
Khadi is since then spun on the ‘Charkha’ (the spinning wheel on which the yarn is hand spun.) The Charkha, with 24 spokes, which is also present on the Indian flag, is a symbolic representation of the hours of the day and the value of time. Taking this forward, Isha’s garment has 24 unique joinery techniques which beautifully acknowledge the efforts of those who spin the wheel painstakingly for 24 hours a day. The key intention behind this initiative is to avoid the use of machinery altogether in order to make a truly sustainable garment. She has therefore innovated these non-intrusive and hand crafted joinery systems of a wheel and a coin - a ‘paisa’ (equivalent to a penny) to construct the entire piece. One can spin the wheel to adjust the fit of the garment, while pulling closer the coin. The ‘paisa’ is meant to be a reminder of the minimal wages of the artisans. Isha explains “With this project, I hope to raise awareness on the khadi fabric, the negligible pay of the khadi artisans and the laborious process of hand spinning this fabric.” She wants to increase its perceived value and shift the mind-sets of the audience to more conscious consumption for a greener tomorrow. By using a hand woven fabric like khadi, along with specialised hand stitched techniques, she brings to the forefront the possibility of a process that is entirely sustainable in not only producing a garment but also in its end use. Her thoughtful and intentional design now lends the wearer the possibility of draping the exquisite Khadi fabric in multiple stunning and fashion-forward forms of outerwear.
Isha’s design is disruptive, shows brilliance in its concept, is innovative and most importantly, has a deep emphasis towards responsible fashion. In a complex and evolving industry, ‘Charkhara’ is a conversation starter and clearly representative of her unique and novice design ideology, which is going beyond the mere aesthetics and functionality of fashion. It also explores the realm of sustainable material development and empowers the artisanal communities.
Isha’s superlative skills, technical expertise and intelligence is well displayed in the complex joinery system which holds the fabric together. The final outcome was an outstanding, one-of-a-kind couture piece, born from the harmonising generational heritage with some unmistakably luxurious silhouettes, whilst carrying a profound message.
This collection stays true to the roots of Khadi, thus retaining its rawness and presenting itself as an exhibit that is earthy and tonal. “The fabric itself is so well-worked, I wanted to let it shine and give it the stage it deserves” Isha tells us. There is nothing more captivating in fashion than the synergy of a sense of play and a purpose, which Isha has exuded graciously! She brings a point of view to the table that is rare to come by. Ironically maximizing a sense of purpose within a minimalistic framework, ‘Charkhara’ tells a story of rich artistry in a way that repositions the Khadi fabric with refinement and finesse.
Isha is internationally recognized for her distinctive skills and ingenious design thinking, resulting in her bagging the AATCC Foundation Jasani Textile Scholarship and being a finalist for UK’s Creative Conscience Award. Isha has also worked with fashion houses like Tanya Taylor, Oscar de la Renta and Derek Lam in New York and Masaba and Vogue in India, giving her global exposure and fuelling her creativity as an artist. She is a new age designer to watch out for with her aesthetic sensibilities, critical thinking and views on a greener tomorrow. And she believes in getting there one stitch at a time!