ethniK yarn: weaving multiculturalism

From Sept. 25–27, Kasturi Guha will be showcasing her Indian hand woven textiles at Port Moody’s Inlet Theatre as part of the sixth annual Culture Days weekend.

Kasturi Guha, a fashion designer, first came to Canada as a graphic designer and retail manager before perusing her passion in Indian weaving.

“When I was in marketing, there was no fashion designing part in my head, so I came here just as a normal immigrant looking for a job. I did my career counseling, and then I realized that I had the passion in me. I knew what I would want to do: fashion weaving,” says Guha.

According to Guha, her line, ethniK yarn, arose from her passion to bridge Eastern and Western forms of weaving. This blend of styles has Guha wondering what she can bring from what she knows and understands.

“[How do I] make choices with a lot of talented people here whom I’ve had the privilege of meeting?” says Guha. “How can I work with the weavers from here? Canada is very mosaic, very multicultural. How can I bring those two together here?”

The tradition of Indian weaving

Guha says that she was first exposed to Indian weaving while growing up in India’s silk capital, Kolkata. “We grew up in the city where we found the fibres line, the silk line. With my father being a doctor, we had the privilege of visiting the villages where they had huge areas to line dry the silk threads. Then they would wring them out, and you would see small little village women whose job was to get the thread in the loom,” says Guha.

She highlights that India’s tradition of weaving is unlike other weaving traditions of the world.

An ethniK yarn scarf. | Photo courtesy of Katsuri Guha

An ethniK yarn scarf. | Photo courtesy of Kasturi Guha

“The weaving technique used in India is the loom. Everything is done hand loomed. Silk, cotton and linen are only made by women because their nimble fingers don’t pull the thread too much and the thread doesn’t get caught in between. So when you pull the thread, it doesn’t have that breakage point and the whole fabric comes out much more clean,” says Guha.

ethniK yarn’s products

Currently, Guha’s line carries a wide range of products ranging from scarves to jackets to jewelry, all of which reflect the various techniques of Indian weaving. “We use a lot of different kinds of stitches and a lot of different dyeing techniques,” says Guha.

As well as showing off the different forms of Indian weaving, ethniK yarn’s products also embrace the spirit of Vancouver’s multiculturalism with inspiration from the Cherry Blossom festival and African designs. Only 20 percent of the line is South Asian based, with saris as the focus.

“When you come to a different country you need to know the culture, the people, the language, who they are, what they are wearing, what they are talking about. You cannot jump from there and just bring something here,” says Guha.

In the future, Guha hopes to expand the multicultural bridge between Canada and India through her products, as she would like to work with other ethnic designers in Vancouver.

Weaving ambassador and Culture Days

In 2014, Guha was selected as one of the invitees to Premier Christie Clark’s trade mission to India. This year, Guha was invited to Culture Days, a Canada-wide celebration of multicultural arts and culture. Her event, Love Story with Loom, aims to teach the public about the art of Indian weaving.

“People only know that this is just a sari with a border and that is it, maybe with sparkles; it is just a gold something. But there are so many techniques that have been used. I will be showcasing some of those pieces there, mainly to educate the people so that they feel much more knowledgable about the product,” says Guha.

Guha believes that her event suits the spirit of Culture Days.

“Culture Days is all about the education, the learning, the knowledge. It’s all about the mosaic society and celebrates the people living here,” says Guha.

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