Postmodern Kalamkari

The rigorous opulence of Priyanka Reddy

Models Sheridan Young and Maggie Hennessey wear the contemporary designs of Sam Fox student  Priyanka Reddy. Photo by James/Byard

Models Sheridan Young and Maggie Hennessey wear the contemporary designs of Sam Fox student Priyanka Reddy. Photo by James/Byard

Kalamkari is one of the world’s oldest textile traditions. Combining the Persian word for pen with a Hindi/Urdu word for work or craftsmanship, these lavish fabrics are painstakingly painted, printed and embroidered by hand.

For Priyanka Reddy, a fashion design major in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, kalamkari was both an inspiration and a challenge. Could such extravagant treatments be incorporated into contemporary pieces?

“I was really drawn to the detail and intricacy,” says Reddy, a Barbara Paton Bridgewater scholar who has traveled to India to study block printing and textiles. “But I also wanted to modernize it.”

Reddy pays rigorous attention to texture, layering and artisanal embellishment. Photo by Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos

Reddy pays rigorous attention to texture, layering and artisanal embellishment. Photo by Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos

For her thesis collection, which will debut April 24 as part of the Sam Fox School’s 87th annual Fashion Design Show, Reddy fuses kalamkari techniques with structures and silhouettes inspired by minimalist architecture. The results, executed in raw silk, are characterized by clean lines, rich surfaces and warm, desaturated colors.

“The palette is more muted than traditional Indian tapestries,” says Reddy, who has interned with Derek Lam, Rosie Assoulin and fellow Sam Fox alumna Jennifer Behr. Bright reds and golds are softened to pinks, peaches and sand — yet Reddy retains the rigorous attention to texture, layering and artisanal embellishment.

“I call it ‘postmodern kalamkari,’” she says with a smile. “I wanted to juxtapose detail in surface treatment with minimalism in shape to create stimulating, beautiful pieces.”

by Liam Otten

 

A portion of Priyanka Reddy's thesis

A portion of Priyanka Reddy’s thesis collection

 

 


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