After bakery products, furniture, bags and oils, Tihar Jail, South Asia’s largest prison complex, is preparing to come out with a fashion line. Rina Dhaka, the designer known for her love for the transparent and the sheer, is imparting designing skills to 80-100 Tihar inmates with the aim of creating 10 menswear lines using khadi handspun behind bars.
The idea took shape when Dhaka met Director General of Tihar Prison Vimla Mehra at the airport while returning from an Art of Living conference in Bangalore. “She (Mehra) invited me to Tihar where I saw all [the work] they were doing — making oil, gardening, reading. I wanted to teach the inmates a new skill, though they already knew tailoring,” says Dhaka. She added the design edge to what they were already doing and trained them in a new craft, so that they would have greater confidence, earn a livelihood while in prison and, finally, be able to execute a collection on their own.
Dhaka will be training the inmates, particularly those convicted for life, to create designer menswear. “We have also selected ten inmates to model in the clothes designed by Dhaka at a fashion show to be organised at Tihar soon,” says Mehra.
Once the patterns and designs are ready, all TJs (Tihar Jail) outlets will sell these creations that will be priced up to Rs 3,000. The designs will be reproduced as classics from the templates created by Dhaka. Till now, the inmates were trained only in basic stitching and cutting and they utilised this skill to make uniforms for Tihar officials or simple kurta-pajymas. Dhaka will use the organic muslin and khadi that they spin on charkhas in Tihar to transform these lucid patterns into shirts, which will then be sold from special kiosks put up in Delhi’s Select Citywalk mall. The mall’s owner, Arjun Sharma, has agreed to give space for this.
“I will use two colours and keep it as natural as I can to preserve the beauty of the fabric. I will not tamper with it,” says Dhaka. “So, the line will be only in cream and white. As Tihar does not have an embroidery unit, I will play with austere stitching techniques to rev up these kurtas and shirts.” A scarf woven in khadi will also be used as an accessory with the ensembles.
“To tell you the truth, I had no idea where this road was going to take me, but I knew it was time to give back to society,” says Dhaka.