Timeless appeal

SANJUKTA DUTTA wishes to take the mekhelasador to a wider platform.

Mekhela-sador, the traditional three-piece attire of Assam has won the hearts of many people from all over the world, from Bollywood celebrities to people overseas. It has always stood out for its exceptional workmanship and its unique drape. Indeed, the mekhelasador is Assam’s pride, and women wear it with utmost reverence. And there are many enterprising men and women from our State who are taking this attire to the world, by showcasing their designs on ramps and red carpets.

Sanjukta Dutta is one such fashion designer who has successfully promoted the mekhela-sador in India and beyond. Originally from Nagaon, Dutta currently resides in Guwahati with her husband and daughter Alful. She has been part of several reputed fashion shows in India, in an all-out effort to bring the mekhela-sador into the limelight. She has even managed to drape several Bollywood icons in our traditional attire, from Hema Malini, Tabu, Karisma Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Priety Zinta, Esha Deol, and many more, at several fashion events.

Dutta, the founder-promoter of the label ‘Mekhela Chador by Sanjukta Dutta’, has been honored with the ‘Stardust Global Achiever’ award and the ‘Dada Saheb Excellence Award’ for contributing to the handloom industry. She has also been selected for the upcoming Times Unlimited Awards to be held in Guwahati.

From being a civil engineer to fashion designing, it was a rather unusual move for this dynamic lady. But she has stuck by her decision, “The most important pull was my love for the outfit and the willingness to take it to the world.” She also adds that her husband has been a constant support and he guided her to follow her dreams. “I started with a humble beginning, but, over the years, the support from my weavers, clients, influencers, the media and the representation on national and international platforms have all helped me grow and shape my brand,” she says.

But what does she feel about the attire that she so beautifully recreates in different ways? “For me, a mekhela-sador is not just a piece of clothing but an ‘emotion’ that women from our region embody. My dream is to make mekhela-sador gain national acceptance and have people beyond our State embrace it.” The outfit,

according to her, is not the same as earlier. “It has gone through evolutionary changes and needs more attention to detailing and experimentation. Anything that has to stay and become timeless has to be moulded with modern sensibilities. I have been working towards it and adding more variations to this traditional drape to keep it in tune with the times,” says Dutta.

Dutta’s designs are mostly a mixture of traditional patterns and modern color combinations, which are quite trendy. Motifs used by her are usually inspired from the diverse flora and fauna of the North-East. “My fabrics are sourced from weavers from across 900 looms, and I am glad to say that most of the looms are managed by women. And we have been able to give them a permanent source of income and to uplift and improve their economic status,” she informs.

While mekhela-sador is surely making a big comeback into the wardrobes of fashionable women, thanks to people like Sanjukta Dutta, there is a long-held view that women who wear traditional attire are not really chic. Behenji and dhekeri are the terms thrown at most women who wear the mekhela-sador. But Dutta is piqued at this insinuation. “These kinds of people are just attention-seekers and are suffering from identity crisis. If wearing and flaunting your tradition becomes a matter of shame or less ‘fashionable’, then so should be eating our traditional food or celebrating traditional festivals, I feel sorry for such people, because they are not true to their own existence. I am proud that I have been making a humble contribution into adding more value to our traditional outfit and I would love to restore the same to its maximum glory, with a dash of modernity, of course,” she signs off.

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