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The Sway of Her Jainsem: Shillong fashion label DSEFH marks a decade of modernising age-old clothing- The New Indian Express

Express News Service

The stage is set with mood lighting and soft music. Out struts, a statuesque model wearing an unusual garment—a hybrid between a gown and a sari—and the crowd unanimously applauds this cutting-edge, contemporary design.

Little do they know that this is actually a modern take on the traditional Jainsem, the native dress of the women of Meghalaya, worn and loved by all due to its practicality. The label promoting this dress on runways of renown, from Delhi and Mumbai to London, New York and Milan, is Daniel Syiem’s Ethnic Fashion House (DSEFH), run by co-founders Daniel Nongjop Syiem (creative head) and Janessaline Mary Pyngrope (business head).

Since its launch over a decade ago, the label has lived up to its ideal of being sustainable on all counts— in its steadfast promotion of local culture as a method of preservation for future generations, and through its hearty adoption of eco-conscious manufacturing practices. “Our brand ethos is deeply entrenched in the roots of our culture and connection to nature.

We are focused on reviving traditional weaves, fabrics and sustainable processes with a contemporary design aesthetic. The mainstay is our work with Ryndia (Eri-silk), a heritage, natural fabric. By joining hands with local weavers of Meghalaya, we develop the fabric from the yarn stage to elevate its properties,” explains Syiem.

Therefore, age-old weaving methods, motifs and vegetable dyes are their mainstay. All of which help them remain committed to their tagline ‘Come Return to Nature.’ Ryndia, in particular,is extracted from cocoons, and every step in the sericulture value chain is environmental, cultural and traditional.

As Pyngrope elaborates further, “We work with local artisans. Since weaving customs are entwined with local traditions, we believe the sustainability of the weavers’ traditional profession is directly proportional to conserving their indigenous lifestyle. To the best of our ability, we use environment-friendly fasteners made with natural materials like wood and bamboo, we reuse and recycle our fabrics and reduce wastage by creative use of the fabric. Further, our garments are 100 per cent organic, and vegetable-dyed. Through all this, we hope to provide an opportunity to both domestic and international buyers to have a look into our culture and tradition.”

DSEFH has two stores in Shillong and a presence around the country and abroad through its website (www.dsethnicfashionhouse.com). Each of its ensembles has unique drapes, classic cuts, interesting bows and accentuated collars. Syiem calls the fashionable women of the Northeast the inspiration for these pieces. “Each outfit showcases the fluid strength of a woman in being capable, significant, powerful and beautiful,” he says.

While the brand’s most popular design remains the shirt dress with an unusually draped front—the modified Jainsem—it also excels in palazzos, kaftans, bohemian tops and draped dresses. Earrings and neckpieces from its sustainable jewellery line, Ornate Earth, are also in great demand, which, alongside the ryndia scarves and stoles are popular gifting options.

“It is important for us to keep telling the story of our land, people and culture through our clothes. We take pride in successfully reigniting the passion, pride and remuneration at the grassroots levels in our weaving community. On our 10th anniversary, we made a documentary film, The Ryndia Odyssey, charting this entire revival journey,” Pyngrope signs off.


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