It took two extra-ordinary years and many a village, to bring out our new collection – “Finding Walden”. The title is inspired by “Walden - Life in the Woods”, a book written in 1954 by Henry David Thoreau. At the age of 27, Thoreau turned his back on his father’s pencil making business to set out for a life in a hand-built cabin in the woods – a place called Walden Pond. During this period of self-imposed isolation, he arrived at the essentials required for fulfilment in the midst of modern life’s uproar- a life of simplicity, self-reliance and a more conscious relationship with nature. Ever since his book was published nine years later, it has served as a bible for millions on their own quest for personal growth and fulfilment. Interestingly, Thoreau’s two-year sojourn in the woods is uncannily similar to our own during the pandemic, and by the end of this period of introspection and self-evaluation, we too had re-discovered ‘our’ Walden.
Archana Akil kumar in our Kingfisher Dress
The collection, “Finding Walden”, is far more than another seasonal offering. Without much ado, it goes straight to the heart of the matter, the essentials at MANTRA - the kernel of our craft, the crux of our beliefs, and the nub of our mission.
For eighteen years, we have been making clothes with hand-crafted textiles - weaves, prints and embroideries. For this, we have liaised with most Indian textile crafts and innumerable artisans across the country. Our rich and extensive textile heritage is deeply embedded in our DNA.
Intensity in colour and texture is as important to us as subtlety in detail, and we’ve always managed to straddle the two in our designs. There have been instances of using twelve different textiles, five different prints, three types of embroideries and two kinds of borders in the same garment which got described by the wearer as minimalistic! That’s just who we are and what we love to do. We are constantly trying to achieve that elusive sense of aesthetic balance in a battleground rife with colours, textiles and crafts.
Archana Akil kumar in our Flame of the Forest Dress
People matter the most to us. The people of MANTRA – the home team, the artisan community, suppliers, business associates, customers, friends and family - are the ones who stood like a rock when winds of uncertainty whirled around us. We held strong because of them. We owe everything to them.
We believe that the clothes at MANTRA are meant to uplift the spirit of the wearer. It’s a simple mandate we follow. The fit of the garment, the juxtaposition of colours, detailing and play of textures, all put together, aim at customer delight.
During the pandemic, it was inordinately difficult to hold on to our first premise - that the key resource at MANTRA, would always be handloom and hand-crafted textiles. Yarn prices skyrocketed, artisans meandered, lead times were extended, and quality yoyo-ed. But we persevered despite the many problems that rained on us. It took several trips to far-flung villages, reams of specification sheets with extensive design details, a mountain of dyed, woven and printed swatches, many prototypes and QC sessions, to develop the textiles you see in this collection.
“Finding Walden”, besides being a journey of self-discovery, is also our labour of love for the textile heritage of this country. It is a collection that has traversed the path from Phulia to Mangalgiri, and from Sanganer to Masulipatnam, through very uncertain times. It is a symbol of our long-held mission to contribute our mite to the sustenance of textile artisanship in India.