Exquisitely crafted and luxurious with an undertone of playfulness sum up everything that Aneeth Arora creates under her label Péro. Even though a number of Indian designers are waking up to the cause of ‘India Modern’ and employing handwoven textiles in their work, Péro’s reinterpretation of the same stands out. With her hand-embroidered poppies, immaculate patchwork, and a dose of old-school gingham and stripes featured on oversized coats and jackets, Arora has given Indian weaves a modern, whimsical touch.
An NID graduate who now stocks in 20 countries and has shown at Pitti Uomo 89 (menswear) and Pitti Bimbo 85 (kidswear) in Florence, Italy, Arora has actively worked to refurbish the image of the traditional chanderi and jamdani. But among the striking colourways inspired by her travels to Mexico, Peru, and China, and embellishments using beads and metal, what stands out is her love for wool in specific – she has now worked with pure wool and handmade weaves from Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, for over a decade. In 2017, she competed for the International Woolmark Prize, and even though did not win, a relationship was forged. Experts observed her commitment to reinvigorate the image of traditional Indian wool, and what followed was a collaboration for Péro’s FW 2018 collection.
This year, in keeping with her signature, Péro’s Fall 2019 collection traces the journey of merino wool from Australia to the looms of Kullu. This time, Arora also looped in a weavers cooperative, Bhuttico, with the idea to put Kullu wool beyond the traditional frame. She says that besides being warm, when mixed with other materials, wool can render great results. This line was recently exhibited at The Good Earth store in New Delhi, where we caught up with Arora to talk about her new collection.
On working with wool as a medium
“Initially, we were creating different patterns and working with different versions of wool. What makes Merino wool better than the local wool is its softness. Not restricted to heavy woolen garments, you can create versions of wool which are as light as muslin. So, for a couple of years, it was just about exploring different weights of wool and different finishes. Then eventually we started exploring the yarn, mixing it with linen to create other blends. We even started involving yarn in our embroideries. Once we started exploring, we realized that the possibilities are endless.”
On working with Kullu weavers
“I have been working with Kullu weavers for almost a decade now and initially, they thought working with a mainstream fashion brand will be a short-lived thing. It did take them some time to figure out that we are in for a bigger plan. Our definition of sustainability is working with weavers and improve our association with them. Weavers all over India come with their know-how and brands need to understand that. Given their lifestyle and challenges, we need to see what we can keep innovating every season. It’s a mutual process between a design house and weavers. We are blending linen and silk with wool, we are mixing wools of different counts. This is a collaboration between Pero, The Woolmark Company, and Bhuttico. Weavers at Bhuttico were experienced working with similar kinds of techniques but with us, they have been open to exploring new things.”
On her techniques and fabric innovation in the latest collection
“We have worked with hand inlay patterns on wool, which is a unique concept. At first, our woolen textiles were either stripes or checks but in our latest collection, we created a variety of surfaces on the loom itself. A spectrum of geometric patterns and diamonds were added in the weaves. This experience has been quite fulfilling because you don’t have to do much to the fabric. All the additions have been made in the fabric while it was in the loom itself.
This season due to the involvement of Woolmark we got access to more types of wool; we had access to the yarn and now we have incorporated wool in our embroideries as well. Wool has been a constant in our brand and now it has a Woolmark stamp on it. We have also experimented with traditional Pattus (shawl drapes that double as a dress). Our versions are developed with engineered placements of geometric patterns, keeping in mind the layout of the garments.”
On pieces that standout
Jackets and slouchy dresses featuring colourful embroderies with a base of electric blue, indigo, and khaki stand out for me. Since we have experimented with the yarn, we created oversized flowers on a few sweaters and cardigans, it seems like we have illustrated using wool.
On understanding the idea of sustainability
In the current fashionscape, a number of designers are working with handwoven fabrics. For me, the idea of sustainability is to give weavers constant work by challenging ourselves and innovating. I think we need to educated these weavers on how to move forward. The brands should also be proactive and respect the traditional practices of the weavers. Only then we can assimilate them into mainstream fashion.