Through its 8 decades of experience in silk garment manufacturing and block printing technique, it has won many clients over with its exceptional design philosophy. We talk to the designer cum manufacturer of Inheritance India to know their story.
The designs have been accumulated from different eras, styles and themes like Mughal, geometric, intricate, bold, dramatic, etc. We speak with the youngest addition to the business, Mariyam Khatri, who has taken a brave decision of keeping the art alive and yet, adding her design instincts to the domestic brand they have launched.
Tell us about Inheritance India. When did it start?
Inheritance India started more than 8 decades ago. We started with hand block printing from Gujarat. It is now located in New Delhi. Our passion for Indian culture and tradition led to this sophisticated and luxury silk brand.
Our prime material was and remains silk but, we have also ventured into cotton. Since internationally, cotton does very well. Also, it is more economical, to begin with.
An art piece is something that everyone wants to possess but at times it’s not accessible. At Inheritance India the effort is to reach the people who have a love of art. Each design is an art piece. The amalgamation of traditional designs with contemporary styles makes Inheritance India’s products one of its kinds.
Tell us about your background and love for handicraft.
I have pursued textile designing from Indian Institute of crafts and design, Jaipur. Post my graduation, I worked with Gaurav Gupta for 6 months under the label Akaaro. I did their textile production and garment designing for them for the Amazon India Fashion Week.
Since I come from a business family, I had to learn the workings of our business. We had launched Silkwaves, our domestic brand, in 2000 but I took over a year and a half back
I’ve always had an inclination towards handicraft and empowering the craftsmen of India, especially in the printing sector. I wanted to take it forward and retain the hand-block segment. That’s why our current collection is hand printed. We’ve put a lot of innovation into this. This is why we are trying to marry the textile (Inheritance India) and garment designing (Silkwaves).
What is your role in Inheritance India?
I’m the head designer here as well as a marketer. I handle all the social media pages of both the companies.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve seen your family struggle with?
There were not many challenges earlier. My dad and his three other brothers started this company. However, one thing I feel which a challenge was, sustaining hand block printing. My other family members (the other 3 brothers) have ventured into screen and digital which does better in the market as it is more marketable, commercial and cheap. Hand block printing is more expensive and labour-oriented: we need to train the labour.
You have two markets to cater to – international and domestic. How easy or difficult it is to do that?
Maintaining a balance between export market and the domestic line is definitely a challenge. Deliveries, technicalities and needs of both the markets are different.
But, it’s got to do with the technique than the market. In hand block printing, for example, anything could go wrong any moment. It’s all done by hand and every step is done in a natural environment. So, there’s a lot of room for errors.
It’s also dependent on the sun since you have to dry the fabric there. We have to pre-plan it the whole thing. That is why, on an average, we ask for 60 days delivery time. We always have to take more margins.
What are the processes that a textile goes through before the final product is made?
First things first, we have a sampling room where, if a buyer can choose from existing range. Then, either we create the required design or we create from their Fashion Tech Pack(s).
Alternatively, we can create the samples (sample making) and range from scratch too. Once the fabric is sourced, if it’s a dyed product, we dye it. It goes for printing and then for finishing where a softener is used.
At last, quality control of each piece takes place.
The skillful transition of motifs on the textile makes each piece a joy for the creator and a prized possession for the wearer.
What should a buyer know before working with you?
Inheritance India’s design pieces are the breakeven points of design and art. Uniting efforts have been put to theme various colours and create intricacy in designs. The skillful transition of motifs on the textile makes each piece a joy for the creator and a prized possession for the wearer.
This is what they should expect when they visit our unit or design house.
We have twenty-five permanent employees who are paid well above the standards.
We do embroidery for our products – scarves, dupatta, stoles, dresses, kurtas and bottom-wear in womenswear category.
Pattern cutting and stitching are the two services we outsource.
For basic scarves, our MOQ can go as low as 60 pieces and for rest, it’s 100 pieces per style per colour.
Is there a reason why you haven’t ventured into menswear?
See, what happened at the IIGF (India International Garment Fair) was, many men liked our designs. They gave us their silhouettes and other requirements. We have a pattern cutter so we fulfilled the order for them. It’s not difficult to design for men. If we do get a query for men’s pattern, we do it.
As a young blood that is ready to experiment, you seem to be quite confident in retaining the traditional techniques. Why is it so?
Our philosophy is to keep the art of block printing alive in this era of technology. The idea is to retain the authenticity of hand block printing. Block printing is a craft that signifies India. Inheritance India wants to keep this ideology alive.
In future, I’d want to add handloom fabric and embroidery. Currently, we are doing handwoven fabric. Maybe I will include something in organic cotton too.
These fast fashion brands like Zara, HM, etc. are damaging the environment to a greater extent. We should be cautious about what we are doing and there should be no wastage in that.
Manufacturers feel that they don’t have a choice when it comes to Sustainable Fashion else it’s a waste of time, money and resources as well. As a designer cum manufacturer, what is your take on Sustainable Fashion?
I believe in sustainable fashion. Whatever I’m doing is completely sustainable. As humans, we have polluted so much.
These fast fashion brands like Zara, HM, etc. are damaging the environment to a greater extent. We should be cautious about what we are doing and there should be no wastage in that. How are we being sustainable? We are doing that by giving work to artisans, hand making everything, doing the regular inspection of our processes, etc.
Do you work with buying agents in India? Why or why not?
Not really, we don’t. We are in the business for a long period now. We do need them from time to time but I feel that when we are interacting directly with buyers, it’s more personal. With buying agents, there’s a kind of a middleman involved so we don’t prefer working with them.
How fruitful have the trade fairs been for you?
We are regular participants of The Indian Silk Export Promotion Council (ISEPC)’s IISF or India International Silk Fair. Since, it is the prime Silk Fair in India of India, we participate here for awareness. In India International Garment Fair, we get a good response for our unique approach to block printing and designing.
My dad has been working with one client for as long as 15 years now. For my 2018 collection, I wanted to promote cotton. For that, I wanted new buyers since our old buyers are happy with silk.
I was looking for a non-high-end clientele which I got from this fair.
Also, I wanted to test my designs for which fashion trade show(s) are perfect since, at the fair, buyers give you really good feedback. You get to know what the thinking of a person who’s not from India, is.
Cotton vs silk- your choice of fabric to work with?
Silk is more expensive. It’s more processed; it takes longer to cure and is more delicate. With this, there is a natural premium-ness to it. Hence, the margins.
Cotton is easier, cheaper, economical and sturdy. I would want to experiment more with cotton.
What advice would you like to give to entrepreneurs who want to work with hand block printing or handmade products?
If you have a passion for preserving the technique or including Asian elements into your designs, then only get into block printing.
As I said at the beginning of this interview, if you carry such a drive to make ‘the art available’ to those who love it, you will be successful.
There’s a fine line between a manufacturing unit and a brand. As a designer, I want the look and the feel of the brand to be very consistent with the ethos. I don’t want to confuse the buyer with everything I have to be showcased. So, it is better to have symmetry in your look and your head in the game.
I believe in the saying by Charles Windoll – “Difference between something good and something great is the attention to detail.”
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