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Colours of Ikat: When Fashion Meets Tradition

Having grown up in Central Asia, my early memories of Ikat associate with colourful dresses and baggy pants of the Uzbek women in Jalal-Abad. The Ikat fabric with its zig-zaggy pattern usually came either in black-and-white or multi-colour combination.
 
Now that I haven’t lived in the region for a long time, every time I see Ikat a feeling of something precious and familiar takes over me. Ikat has been popular for few years now and was featured both in the home design and high fashion. A more modern version of Ikat has been popularised by such great designers as Oscar de a Renta, who visited Uzbekistan and fell in love with Ikat, and Tory Burch, who uses exotic prints like Ikat in her collections over and over again.
 
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Soviet Tashkent, Uzbekistan

 Ikat in Fashion

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Oscar de la Renta 2005
 
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Oscar de la Renta 2005 
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Balenciaga 2007
 
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Tory Burch iPad case
 
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Ikat: a Bit of History

But where does this fabric come from and how does this unusual pattern come to life?
 
 
According to the dictionary, “Ikat” translates from Indonesian as “cord”, “thread” and “to tie”, “to bind”. It’s an ancient dyeing technique similar to tie-dye technique. Once dyed, the thoroughly washed bundles are tied as the warped (longitudinal strings) onto the loom. The patterns are usually decided by the weaver as the warp threads are tied. Warp threads are adjusted for the desired alignment for precise motifs.
 
It’s interesting thatIkat can be found in various cultures spanning from Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey to India and even Central and South America. But that’s not surprising given international trade on the Silk Road that connected Indian continent, Southeast and Central Asia with the West. Apparently, Dutch traders, Spanish explorers and various travellers brought this fabric from main points of Ikat production, such as Bukhara in ancient Uzbekistan. 
 
Given labour intensity that goes into making them and their intricate designs, today antique Ikat coats from Uzbekistan are sought after items that has landed in many textile museums around theworld and private collections.
 
At the end, a pic of myself modelling Ikat silk tunic and coat by an Uzbek designer and interview by late Oscar de la Renta on his love of Ikat.
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