Ladakh in new hues

Published: Aug 15, 2019, 07:00 IST | Karishma Kuenzang

A week before her line debuts, a 26-year-old Ladakhi designer opens up about her nature-themed collection, and how Article 370 could result in a boom for the handloom sector

Ladakh in new hues
Palmo has used silk for traditional brocade garments

Even though she was born and raised in the main town area of Ladakh, Stanzin Palmo grew up watching her grandmother spin her own wool, a more common sight in the villages there. For, Ladakh happens to be a textile gem, an unknown fact that the 26-year-old National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) Delhi graduate hopes to highlight in her debut at an upcoming fashion week in Mumbai.


Called Between the Earth and Sky, the collection embraces the natural beauty the new Union Territory (UT) has to offer. Naturally, it's a dream come true for Palmo. The young designer faced an uphill task until now to convince her parents that the creative line was a viable career choice as they hail from an area that isn't exactly familiar with design labels, she shares. "I was a science student in school who took up fine arts as a stress buster, but felt a natural pull towards it. My parents didn't approve my choice till I took up government projects in Ladakh that involved training handloom artisans. Another factor that helped change my parents' mind was the reality that there are so many ed­ucated people back home who don't have jobs," Palmo tel­ls us over the phone. Edited excerpts from the interview.

What can we expect from your debut line?
Though I have used pashmina in the collection, the line is a summer option and uses modal rayon and cotton. I've also used silk for traditional brocade garments. The prints are all about the natural beauty of Ladakh, with patterns like the apricot blossom and sea buckthorn that are endemic to the region, just like the Hoopoe bird that's only found there, and the enigmatic clouds. There are also pieces inspired by the traditional horizontal hand-stitching technique called sul of the Ladakhi dress goncha. There are five parallel lines of sul that bring together the dress. I am also working with yak fabric and the ancient nambu fabric from the region.

Stanzin Palmo has used flora and fauna motifs in this line

What was the experience of working with traditional textiles like?
It was only after I started working with traditional artisans in Ladakh did I learn th­at the pashmina is actually obtained from a species of goat that is found only in Changthang in Ladakh. The raw material is sourced from here and produced in Kashmir, which is why people think that pashmina has its roots in Kashmir. But there's a difference — the one from back home is completely handmade, and hence thicker and softer. And no, the sign of a pure pashmina isn't that it has to pass through a ring — something people often ask me. You have to test it in the lab and if it falls under 12 to 15 microns, it's pure pashmina. Also, the Kashmiri variant has embroidery and threadwork on it while we create a plain version with a herringbone pattern on it. I've used zari and gota embroidery.

Stanzin Palmo

Will Ladakh's Union Territory status impact the textile industry there?
The Geo Tag for pashmina has so far belonged to Kashmir. But with the region gaining the UT status, things should change. Firstly, the funds that come from the Union Government for skill development won't be coming via the Kashmir state government, which means we will gain the entire amount. Earlier, Ladakh would barely get any funds; to make a change, you need money. Also, Kashmiri textiles have always overshadowed ours in the past; I had pointed this out to Union Minister for Textiles, Smriti Irani when I met her recently. She assured that measures would be taken to put Ladakh on India's textile map. It helps that since today everything is machine-made, slow craft is gaining importance. So, local entrepreneurs who had family businesses are procuring licences, and manufacturing textiles.

People have mixed reac­t­i­­­­o­­ns back home because th­­­ough we've been asking for UT status for 70 years, now our land is at stake. We are also hoping the Union Government will introduce policies to protect Lad­a­kh's natural beauty.

ON August 21, 12 pm
AT The St Regis, Tulsi Pipe Ro­ad, Lower Parel.

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