CDK: Bhutan's Eco-Fashion Brand
“Yes, yes, just trying,” said Chandrika Pakrim with a laugh when asked if her brand promotes eco-fashion.”
A banker turned fashion designer, Chandrika launched CDK in 2016 as one of the first Bhutanese eco-fashion lines. Her blend of online education with Bhutanese textile traditions has made for a unique brand that has sparked the interest of the local community. Her latest line titled ‘Mellow’ was recently showcased at the Royal Textile Academy (RTA).
Here are some excerpts from an interview with MyBhutan:
So, why eco- fashion? Especially in a country where the celebrated textile industry was for so long organic.
Historically, textiles were spun from raw materials like silk and cotton traded from neighboring countries like India. Sheep wool and yak hair were sheared on the farm. The women would dye the yarn with leaves, flowers, roots, vegetables and fruits and weave garments on their porch using a back-strap loom. With a massive bamboo stick, weavers would set a pattern, roll a ball of yarn from one side to the other and back, weaving in Buddhists motifs. Families would reuse clothes and pass them on to younger members.
But with the introduction of chemical dyes and importation of fabrics, the Bhutanese fashion industry is not as eco as it once was. The people here, they don’t know what’s eco-friendly. Although Bhutanese are wholeheartedly in support of environmental initiatives, many don’t know exactly what that entails.
Chandrika admits that her brand isn’t 100% organic. She, like the rest of the industry, imports raw fabrics from India and other threads which are already dyed. However, her goal is to source her own fabrics and experiment with other materials such as bamboo and banana. She also plans to continue her favorite part of the production process, dyeing, like experimenting with purple cabbage, rhododendron, avocado and turmeric.
What is an eco-fashion brand?
For me, when I started, I wanted to do something that not only satisfies my hobby or interest but something that will help everybody, you know? I just started with a few garments where I choose a fabric that’s organic, raw silk and then I try to dye with that. I just learned from internet on how to dye and everything, how to make it very simple with less chemicals. I don’t use any chemicals, I just use lime and natural modems and then when processing, I also try to make a design which leaves less wasted objects, fabrics.
You learned how to make garments on YouTube. Was this a traditional practice?
I’m the first one to do it in Bhutan. There are natural dying and weavers, but I am the first one to do that. Bhutanese motifs into a block printing and use two types of dye. Usually they use chemical dyes. Recently we have started dying in yarns not in the fabrics. Most of the weavers here have been dying with yarns, I do yarns plus fabrics. I use all organic fabrics, like raw silk and organic cotton.
What does organic mean?
Actually, I’m not an expert, I’ve just researched and educated myself. It actually means using less chemical. I’ve tried dying with a chemical, it’s such a waste of water. Lots of water that will obviously go to a river and eventually into the sea, polluting everything. Organic actually means using all natural dying process and avoiding the use of machines.
Can you share your process of making a garment?
Till now, I have been choosing fabrics, getting inspiration from my surroundings and then dye into a natural color. Then I make a sketch and draw the pattern which is then handed over to my tailor for the stitching. With the leftover fabrics, I try to make accessories.
Where do you get your fabrics from?
Since raw materials are not readily available here in Bhutan, I get raw fabrics including the yarns from India. We get the yarns from India and weave them here and thus, add the Bhutanese touch.
Have Bhutanese always been receiving fabrics from India?
Yes, all of it, the whole of Bhutan. But my future business plan includes experimenting with bamboo and banana fabrics like some western countries. This is an easy process and the fabric actually feels very soft, but that will take some time.
Describe your fashion line..
For me, till now, I have been using very simple, basic cuttings and bright colors since I want to make people feel the texture of the garment and and feel elegant. I always try to create something calm that will allow for the wearer to feel at peace and at the same time, something that is wearable, comfortable and very classy.
“My ultimate goal is to adopt and promote a 100% eco-friendly brand that I can showcase internationally.”
STORY BY SARAH CAHLAN
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CDK