There’s something undeniably attractive about ikat. Whether showcased in a store window, worn at a soirée or even in the form of home linen, this textile always catches the eye. But what is ikat really? It’s a resist dyeing technique where sections of yarn are dyed prior to weaving the fabric and then the pattern is woven on the loom. This is different from other resist-dyed textiles like batik and tie-dye, where the dye is applied on woven fabric and not yarn. Technically an ikat pattern can also be printed onto cloth, but only the painstakingly produced, dyed and then woven textile is considered ikat.
Here’s a simplified explanation of how ikat is made. Craftsmen bind yarn with a tight wrapping applied in the desired pattern to form a resist. Then they dye the yarn. This process can be repeated multiple times in various colors to create elaborate and multihued designs. After the dyeing is complete, all the bindings are untied and the yarn is mounted on the loom and woven into ikat fabric.
This complex production explains why ikat stands out visually and also tends to be priced higher than other dyed fabric. Historians speculate that it developed independently in various parts of the world such as Indonesia and Japan, but India is certainly one of the oldest and biggest producers of this fabric. Pochampally in Telangana is famous for this textile while ikat from Odisha is known as ‘bandha’. Patan in Gujarat is one of only three places in the world which produces the incredible double ikat, locally known as ‘patola’.
The beauty of ikat’s aesthetic is that it is remarkably versatile. Hollywood celebrities like Kristen Stewart and Taraji P Henson have been spotted in it, while closer to home, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja has embraced it in her sartorial choices.
Ikat has been spotted on red carpets and couture ensembles, but we especially love it as loungewear and work-from-home attire. To appreciate and cherish this striking textile that is made in India’s craft communities, we’ve curated silhouettes ranging from roomy tunics to drop-waist dresses that work well for summer.
Luxury textile label House of Angadi launched this ready-to-wear label last year. This high-low tunic is part of its first collection, titled ‘Architexture.’ Founder K Radharaman wanted to disrupt the retail space by creating craft-led clothing such as this ikat shirt, which has muted tones, a chic silhouette and an unusual pebble-inspired ikat pattern—a timeless piece that will last forever in your wardrobe.
Okhai works with rural artisans to create fashion and lifestyle products. “We designed the ‘Ditzy’ shorts during lockdown to offer customers loungewear options in pure cotton fabric,” says founder Kirti Poonia. “They’re made of handwoven ikat and have been designed with comfort in mind. The silhouette is smooth at the waist, loose at the thighs and has two pockets to carry your phone as you walk around the house.”
Parson graduates Amalie Mikkelsen and Karandeep Singh Chadha use handloom fabrics to create trendy, feminine clothing. “The ‘June’ dress is made from organic handwoven cotton and is inspired by an old ikat swatch in my mother’s cabinet,” says Mikkelsen. “She collected fabric treasures from all over the world, especially India.” The loose fit and puffed sleeves make it perfect weekend-wear or an ideal poolside cover-up.
Abraham & Thakore
Nothing says summer like a comfortable co-ord set. This chic trouser set is made of a silk-cotton handloom ikat fabric with a blown-up jali motif. It is further embellished with hand-block printed stripes. The Nehru collar gives it a formal touch without compromising on comfort—apt for an important presentation or webinar
The Ikat Story
Celebrity stylist Chandni Sareen runs a clothing and accessory label entirely dedicated to the ikat craft. Her latest collection ‘Tekiji’ reflects the dynamism of modern Japanese streetwear while using homegrown Indian fabrics. This handsewn slip dress transitions easily from Zoom calls to evening drinks and keeps you comfortable through the day.
The ‘LANA’ dress has a trapeze silhouette, making it perfect summer loungewear. The ikat check pattern has been created by skilled artisans—on closer inspection, you’ll see disappearing lines in the stripes and checks. This versatile garment can be worn as a dress or left open to become an outer layer with trousers below.
Fabindia is known for making solid basics and uses ikat extensively in its collections. These cropped cotton pants have an elasticated waist and a tapered fit. They’re a great addition to your workwear wardrobe.
Rajesh Pratap Singh
The lure of the LBD never fades. This version by Rajesh Pratap Singh has a sharp ikat print and an unusually placed pocket. Wear it to intimate gatherings or when you’re winding down at night.
The August Co.
A woman-dominated company, The August Co. is run by Vidhi Singhal who wanted to design practical yet attractive workwear for Indian women. This sleek ikat skirt is made of handwoven cotton, which gets softer with every wash, and also has pockets deep enough to fit your phone. It’s perfect to wear during the workday and comfortable enough to carry on until dinner.
Co-founder designers Ruchi Tripathi and Jaya Bhatt, studied fashion at NIFT and now work with artisan communities to create conscious clothing. This silk, flower-patterned ikat overlay has endless styling options. Pair it with a white slip and functional trousers for those Zoom calls and with another printed layer for a more dressy look. It can also be transformed into an ethnic outfit or a swimsuit cover-up, hitting all the right notes of sustainability for us.