Retelling Stories From The Past
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Wajahat Rather started Raffughar as a tribute to the traditional darners of Kashmir. He uses his label to contemporize the ancient craft techniques of his home state.

How were you drawn to textiles?

WR: I studied painting in Jammu before I went to NID in Ahmedabad to study textile design. While I was studying painting I felt the objects I created lacked function. In the art school it was more about esthetics and philosophy. I wanted to create products that could serve a human need. It was partly to do with my innate curiosity and partly to do with the fact that I’m from a multicultural background. I’m interested in behavior how different people think depending on where they are from, and creating a dialogue with people that are different from me. The coexistence of a multitude of cultures definitely opens my mind.

I am from Kashmir, which is famous for its exquisite textile crafts. During my school days our neighbor, Ab Gani Padder, used to reuse old woolen carpets to make embroidered gabbas. My father had a kaleenwaan (carpet workshop) when I was a kid. Unfortunately he had to shift to a government job when there was a decline in the craft. Textile I guess was part of the daily rhythms back then and that may have helped my decision to study textiles at NID. I went on to do an MA Design - Fashion & Textile from Nottingham Trent University, UK.

How did your time at NID impact your career?

WR: I had no idea the National Institute of Design existed. Padamshri Mr. Rajinder Kumar Tiku, my mentor at the Institute of Fine Arts in Jammu, recognized my scientific approach towards fine arts and asked me to fill an application for NID. I took his advice and applied just a month before the selection exams were held. I prepared for the NID exams while I was studying fine arts in Jammu. The selection procedure was threetiered: a written exam, a studio test and an interview. Besides going through the rigorous selection, I was also trying to absorb the culture shock as this was the first time I was outside my comfort zone. It was a bit difficult but I was afloat sooner than I thought. NID has made sure that I am sensitive about things around me - the aptitude and attitude of a person changes when you are allowed to question everything and think anew about every aspect of design and life. NID ensures that students become good humans before becoming designers. There is always a concern for society and the people we work with. The institute has nurtured us in a way that we follow ethical and fair trade practices.

How did ‘Raffughar’ come about?

WR: During my final year project at the Craft Development Institute in Srinagar, I was working with the soznikaars (master artisans) of Kashmir who told me that their forefathers were raffoogars (darners) who would mend clothes. I decided then that whenever I had my own label I would dedicate it to the darners of Kashmir. I started Raffughar in New Delhi in 2013. The initiative takes into account the traditional sensibilities of crafts of India. We started with Namdas (handmade felted rugs) and Pashmina stoles, and later diversified into apparel.

What is Raffughar’s design philosophy?

WR: We believe that traditional crafts are sophisticated and have refined over the years. To contemporize these authentic hand techniques that have evolved over a long time requires proper direction. We intend to revive the traditional and natural processes of craft-making in the contemporary global market scenario. We rally forward with DNC as our motto, combining Design, Nature and Crafts to yield a meaningful whole.

Raffughar’s ideology revolves around studying traditional textiles, silhouettes and translating them into contemporary ensembles. Our work can be better defined as ‘Museum to Barcode’ – this defines our design process. For us clothes become a medium to tell unheard stories of art, culture and literature.

We strongly believe in ethical trade practices. Raffughar is a fair-trade sustainable brand, carving a niche for itself in the gender-equality market, not just for clients but also as a means of providing sustenance for people we work with irrespective of their gender or orientation. We follow a zero waste policy and try to keep our carbon footprint low. We see Raffughar as a global brand rooted in its identity, staying truthful to the esthetics that is shaping it.

How do you come up with a collection?

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