Our New Roots: Weaving tales with textiles – MORA by Ritika

Ritika Mittal’s Mora celebrates the artistry of indigenous weaving communities, promotes traditional skills and blends together fabrics and designs in unique, attractive ways.



This section on Ethical Fashion is made possible with the support of Bhu:Sattva


Ritika Mittal’s enduring love affair with textiles and travel began innocuously enough. As a media person it started with the occasional story on travel. A few trips to Lucknow and Kolkata, hallowed grounds for fabric lovers, followed. Very soon, Ritika was hooked. Travel became a recurring motif and she found herself drawn to remote places, in search of more than a story.

Ritika mittal In a mora Creation

Ritika mittal In a mora Creation

And though she had no formal training in textile, she found she had an instinctive knack for combining fabrics and colours in new ways.

In 2009, she set off for the North East, with no specific plan in mind, but a yearning to live and work amongst locals. A desire to experience their way of life. And slowly Ritika began to discover a thing or two about their native craft; through their weaves she began to unravel the untold stories of their lives.

Weavers of the North-East

Weavers of the North-East

Seven years into her journey, Ritika’s label Mora has come into its own. Like Ritika herself, the idea resists easy categorization. Certainly far away from mainstream, high-street fashion, Mora is an idea born out of love. It seeks to celebrate the artistry of nameless weavers, in remote areas of our country. It seeks to reach buyers who have a rich appreciation for authentic, local handicraft. Mora by Ritika, hopes to create a sustainable ecosystem of artists and buyers so that rare weaves and the knowledge to create them is preserved.

Mora Designs

Mora Designs

With Ritika being off the grid for 11 months of a year, Mora reaches out to a discerning set of people only via Facebook. Where, every so often, she announces the availability of a small selection. Mora customers, then, wait for months for a particular piece they wish to have. Perhaps it is a saree, a shawl, a stole, or a chador, a skirt, or a dupatta. As Ritika points out, Mora customers are not just buying a piece of cloth, but, very consciously, they are buying into the philosophy of Mora. And in owning a piece by Mora they too are becoming part of a organic, growing, patchwork of stories that accompanies every unique piece and design.

And if her clothes could talk what astonishing stories they would tell. They would speak, perhaps, of natural fibres, extracted painstakingly, from trees, of natural colours that came from plant based dyes, of intricate patterns woven by loving hands, of symbols, like triangles, and circles, and dots, and why they came to be there. Indigenous textiles, are then, a physical representation of a people and their past. And their rapid disappearance hints at other losses, chronicled only too well, in all our modern lives.

And while city life makes us less self sufficient and more frenetic, native communities who live more sustainable, slow lives, with a stronger connection to the earth are also changing. The last generation of artisans and weavers, who are proud of their unique art and skill, have no one to pass on their learnings too. Mora is hoping to change that in humble ways, by working with one weaver family at a time.

TheAlternative_Mora Fabrics

A nomad rather than a tourist, Ritika, eats, works, plays and lives with weavers in their homes. She documents their practices via photographs and takes detailed notes, that will serve as a handbook for the future. She does not impose her lifestyle, or her city based learnings on the families or the community, but only seeks to repurpose their traditional craft to fit new forms that are likely to be used by urban people.

Project Thebvo

Project Thebvo

For instance, recently, in Nagaland, she has begun working with Chakhesang Nagas who make fibre from the stinging nettle plant. This hardy, coarse jute-like material, Thebvo, is used to make bags, blankets and everything else the community needs. Mora is working on Project Thebvo, to revive this existing traditional technique to create hand spun, fine, silk-like fibres from the same stinging nettle plant. Their experiments have already yielded much softer, sophisticated, less-utilitarian material.

This community project, if it succeeds, will not only repurpose an indigenous skill, but elevate it to a new-found art form, thus attracting more young people into its fold. In partnership with a local NGO, Mora is ploughing its own funds to make this a reality, by hiring supervisors, buying computers, and educating the community on the nuances of bringing a design to life. In training them to become self-sufficient and reach out to the external world, Mora is doing its bit to sustain community knowledge, and promote ethical fashion. And while Mora means ‘mine’…in making space for these handcrafted beauties in our closets, we are protecting what belongs to them, you, me, us, what is collectively ‘ours’.

All images courtesy Mora.

The Sustainable Fashion Hub is a series that examines shifts in the the global fashion industry to more sustainable and ethical practices and processes, with a special focus on India. It explores what goes into creating a just and sustainable fashion value chain – from the creation of garments and lifestyle accessories to making them available to consumers. All content on the hub is produced with 100% editorial independence by The Alternative. 

The Hub is supported by logo, India’s first certified organic designer apparel brand. With products that are directly sourced from organic cotton farmers at fair trade terms. Bhu:Sattva® uses natural colours, vegetable and herb dyes and goes further to work on reviving various forms of traditional weaving and handloom. Information on its products and processes can be found at http://www.bhusattva.com


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Preeti is a freelance communications consultant, working with video, documentary film, radio and writing. more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Preeti is a freelance communications consultant, working with video, documentary film, radio and writing. more

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