The designers behind it all

Fashion industry in Bhutan looks to international limelight and a bright future

Fashion in Bhutan was not popular as it was in other countries. However, with time and after inception of the Royal Textile Academy (RTA), the fashion industry in Bhutan is growing and has seen a drastic improvement in a few year’s time.

The quality, the styles and the whole design concept have improved a lot in the past few years and it is getting better every year.

Executive Director of RTA, Rinzin O. Dorji, shared that she started working in RTA since 2006 and they have been holding fashion shows almost in annually basis in the country, and it is amazing to see huge improvement with time.

She said, “The recent fashion show, which was organized in collaboration with Indian Embassy,  was such a good and amazing moment to witness. It was amazing to see all the pieces by our four designers and it was a marked improvement.”

“For us, it is very encouraging to know that there are people who are actually going to study fashion designing. As far as I know, I have come across few people who left for fashion studies and are into the creative line apart from other usual courses,” she added.

RTA is interested to encourage such participation by people who are talented in this field because it just doesn’t involve the design of the fabric; it is also the design of textile itself, with multiple variations that are coming up.

She said, “Designers are playing with the combination of threads, making it lighter, thinner and looking at the types of weaving that is done to make the fabric flexible to be used for multiple purposes.”

Bhutanese designers are also getting platform outside Bhutan. The four designers (Chandrika Tamang, Kencho Wangmo, Tshering Choden and Sangay Choden) got a chance to visit Lotus Make-Up India Fashion Week recently.

The four designers have been working with the RTA for quite long. They came in as models, choreographers and designers, she said, adding that they are happy to give them the opportunity.

When they do their products, the designers must also add this conscientious of the environment, women empowerment and youth engagement, she said. “It is not just fashion but there are other important factors that they have to keep in mind,” she added.

RTA is in the process of actually trying to understand what they should do to improve the weaving industry in Bhutan and they have realized that there are many things that need to be done but due to lack of capacity of finances and focus, it has been always challenging for them.

She said, “We are considering working closely with the government in terms of promoting the small and cottage industries and to go into the design sector. We are considering to set up a design center in the country.”

In addition, she also said that they will start with a resource center which will give designers and anybody who is interested access to all types of materials that goes into a weaving. “This is to give the people better understanding on what can be created on the loom. The resource center will be opened next year or so,” she added.

In addition, they are also trying to see the feasibility of setting up a design school in the country and the mandatory component of the school will be to preserve and promote traditional art of weaving.

For few months, the students will have to do training of the traditional art of weaving in Bhutan and after that they go on to explore a multitude of combinations of yarns and materials to create fabric.

“We hope to see a big change in the types of garments that will be available in Bhutan. The government and whole society in Bhutan is trying to look at the creativity and to encourage it. This is what we need in Bhutan and economy certainly needs to diversification,” she added.

Meanwhile, on reaching the products designed by the designers to the international market, she said that they are still struggling and that is the reason why they are doing all the events to promote and to make people aware of the fashion industry in Bhutan.

The textile presentation on 16 October was not just a fashion show since after the very big fashion show in 2013, they have collectively decided that to have a fashion show they should have something more than a show.

“We wanted it to mean something, where we call designers and buyers from outside, look at our products, sign contracts and take our pieces outside. So the recent show gave us the opportunity because now we are working collaborative with Indian Embassy and FDCI. Through that we would like the participation of our designers in the fashion week in India,” she said.

“They have decided to have one stall (fashion week in India) where the Bhutanese designers can promote their products and never know where that would lead to,” she said.

She said that the foreign dignitaries attended the event were impressed with the products by Bhutanese designers.

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