Reza – Journey from the Indus Valley to a Fashion House

The history of weaving in Haryana is as old as the Indus valley civilization. Archaeological evidence suggests that the people of Haryana have been growing cotton for several millennia and spinning yarn for making cloth. The skills for preparing many types of cloth by weaving and dyeing the cotton yarn continued to be refined for several centuries. However, the basic tools of weaving and the Kargha or crude weaving machine have remained unchanged until a century ago. In spite of British influence on weaving in India that changed the scenario to great extent, the rural weaver continued to operate his old frame (four and six pedal loom) and weaved a traditional kind of cloth popularly known as ‘Reza’, a purely organic product of the Indian soil.

Old woman on Charkha (spinning wheel) preparing yarn

Little is known about the origin of the word ‘Reza’, but a large number of people in the rural area wore various kinds of apparel made from this fabric until the mid-1900s CE. Everyone was familiar with ‘Reza’ as a coarse cloth woven by the village weaver directly from raw cotton. The women of the family would do the ginning, spin fine yarn and provide it to the village weaver who would then weave the cloth as per the requirement of the family whether for preparing wearable garments or for other household and agricultural purposes.

 

An 80 years old slung bag made from Reza cloth used by Jogis to collect alms
A 80 years old jhola or bag used by jogis to collect alms made from Reza fabric

 

 

A 'Khes' ade from home supn yarn
A ‘khes’ made from home spun yarn

 

Due to impact of industrialization and people taking to other professions in Haryana, many started discarding the coarse cloth and instead preferred mill manufactured cloth. For nearly five decades since the 1950s, the people of Haryana had nearly forgotten if such a cloth as Reza ever existed and confined most of the old garments prepared at home with this fabric to boxes in attic. It remained secure for decades until it was rediscovered a couple of years ago by Lalita Singh, convenor of Daksh, a group of fashion designers. Its revival has been nothing short of a miracle and the quality has not been compromised.

 

A fifty seventy years old shirt made from true Reza or Chausi cloth
57 years old shirt made from Reza or also known as Chausi fabric

 

Before introducing Reza, thorough research work with documentation was undertaken followed by recovering the old textiles – dyed as well as decorated, from the cupboards. Relics of information were gathered during conversation with several elderly weavers and traditional dyers. A home-based facility was set up at Bohar village adjacent to Rohtak town in Haryana for weaving of Reza.

 

Through constant research and veritable inputs, Lalita attained a level in skills to weave fine to coarse cloth and was able to produce Reza. After receiving her initial training in fashion designing, her new endeavor took her to take a quantum leap into textile manufacturing and apparel designing by exclusive induction of traditionally home spun yarn and Reza manufacturing. It could now be used for cutting edge marketing by manufacturing garments for every age group. As a special project, Lalita Singh imparted the skills of Reza manufacturing to the prison inmates in two districts –Rohtak and Jhajjar, for which she got instant support from the highest authorities in the government as well as the Jail Department.

 

Lalita at her six pedal loom
Lalita at her six pedal loom

 

In the preliminary phase various kinds of cotton grown in Haryana, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra were tried for manufacturing Reza. When the trial period was over, it emerged that the long fiber and color of the white cotton obtained from Western Madhya Pradesh was best suited for its enduring quality and sheer strength of yarn. The cloth that acquired a distinct color could also be dyed to yield dull but soothing shades in blue, red and green. Nevertheless, her designing skills and enthusiasm have led to test brown or Khaki colored natural cotton for weaving designs and patterns into weaved cloth i.e. Reza. May be next cloth would be all naturally Khaki. Lalita cautions that ‘Reza’ should not be compared or branded as ‘Khadi’.

 

Hand supn cotton yarn -dyed in organic azure blue earth color (left) and yarn spun with natural brown cotton
cotton yarn dyed in shades of azure and earth

 

Reza manufactured at Lalita’s facilities – whether at home or in Jail premises, can endure seasonal variations in temperature and withstand moisture to last a decade at least, provided how many times a garment is used and washed in a proper medium. Its thermal efficiency is better than cloth manufactured in a modern cloth mill.

Her fame led many an eminent personalities in the department of Justice, Police, public administration and patrons to opt for Reza garments and customized apparels. The garments prepared with Reza cloth can be embroidered with raw silk or woollen threads with folk motifs handpicked from a rich tradition of decorative textile designs of Haryana and north India.

 

Apparel designed by Lalita and hand crafted in embroidery by a woman of Bohar village -on Reza
Apparel deigned by Lalita and hand embroidered by a woman of Bohar village

 

In September 2017, Reza made apparel was introduced at the New York Fashion Week by Lalita’s group Daksh. It was a rare occasion when an ancient Indian textile was rolled out on an international fashion platform. It was much appreciated and loved by all. This has led to Daksh launching various ensembles and collection of apparel made from Reza fabric. The future of Reza now looks as bright as the full moon.

The story of revival of Reza is not of personal triumph alone but also of public – private partnership where all played their roles perfectly.

 

Author – Ranbir Singh Phogat

He can be contacted at rsphaugat@live.in

    

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