One may find the buzz around the Paris fashion week and, closer home; the amazon fashion week quite enticing…we now transport you to a different locale! In the heart of Ladhak is ‘Jigmat Couture’- a brand that takes pride in working on the finer nuances of the Ladakhi wool; its fineness, the splendid texture and longer fibre length to bring out high end stylish and luxury products……
Wool- has been recognized as a fundamental component of Ladakhi culture…not just because of the rich availability but more so because the people of this region have a natural inclination towards spinning and weaving. With the objective of celebrating this ancestral legacy, Jigmat Couture- a brand set up in the heart of Leh- advocated traditional methods of providing high quality, tradition and sustainability exquisite products developed from the finest textiles and varied range of wools, especially hand woven and spun by local artisans of Ladakh.
The brand and boutique was set up in 2010 by the duo Jigmat Norbu and Jigmat Wangmo, following two years of research on possibilities of woolen textile in traditional weave as marketable product. The basic objective- quote these phenomenal designers- was to explore possibilities and to create valuable products for luxury market in this part of the country. Here is a conversation with TLJ team….
When did it all begin? Tell us about your team!
Having been based in Delhi for quite some time, we were aware about the trade and technical know-how of the business. That is when we decided to come back. Initially it was not easy. We spent quite lot of time in understanding domestic market and our own loom and textile since this subject was not explored or there was no expert to consult regarding this craft. The biggest challenge was to develop innovative marketable product and above all research and development has to be on continuous base. After working with few artisans to create local woollen textile (snam-bu), we eventually came out with beautifully textured, warm and durable products and the outcome was beyond expectation. Though textile weaving is not new to Ladakh but it had been limited with only two variations in weave amounting to just two designs. Now we are very proud and happy that our R & D is so strong that we have come up with hundreds of design and it is on continuation. We have a team of people in spinning, weaving, designing, tailoring and sales.
How did the idea of woollen textile in traditional weave (as marketable product!) strike you?
While studying in fashion industry, we both had the idea that there is a potential market for this kind of a textile. But for that, one has to innovate and work hard on the design elements for this textile. Traditionally, Ladakhi textile (snam bu) is woven with lambs or sheep wool only and single color is dyed in shades of red only. However, now we have woven this textile with yak wool, camel wool, cashmere and merino wool and further dying it with various natural dyes beside varieties of stripes, checks, herringbone, birds eye to name a few. And we are doing it all with traditional loom and in traditional way, hundred percent hand-woven.
What kind of traditional values continue to inspire you? And how are you preserving the tradition through your stylish couture?
We are blessed to be born in this part of the world with rich culture, art, craft, landscape, costume, food everything. Our endeavour is to retain an umbilical connection with the huge talent resource of Ladakh’s mysterious craft and culture. The label is all about the preserving and reviving our tradition in many ways. In Ladakh, there used to be at least one weaver in every village but now you hardly find any weaver. If we put a break in continuation of any craft, soon it diminishes away dying a slow death. Our objective is not only to practice this craft but at same time, to document it for future reference. We are planning to come up with textile resource center and textile museum. By the end of this season, our ‘textile museum of Ladakh’ will be ready for public. This is one of a kind museum in entire Himalaya. One can not only enjoy exhibited artefacts but can get involved in process of textile weaving, study, exhibiting one’s own creation.
What kind of clients do you find walking into your store? Tell us about your most cherished experience so far.
We have our pret line (ready to wear) and accessories made with pure cashmere for regular customers with very reasonable price. So far, we have dressed many royalties, celebrity from film to politics and so on. We have been featured in Lakme Fashion Week, Mumbai, by Marg publications. It was definitely a great experience to showcase our creation at this prestigious platform. Since we show cased ladakhi costumes, we got appreciation and compliments from everyone present there.
You are known for very high quality of your products. How do you succeed in creating such quality every time?
Ladakh lies embedded in the mountains of Karakoram in the north-west, the Himalaya in the south-west and the Trans Himalaya at its core. The region is rich in livestock such as yak, goat, sheep and camel from which some of the finest and exquisite quality of wool and pashmina are extracted. High end quality of our products comes from few factors like 100% hand spun and woven, assured purity, made by local people. We try to keep our products organic and authentic.