Daniel Syiem's national fashion house not only played a pivotal role in the revival of Ryndia silk, a traditional environmentally friendly fabric, but also ushered in a revolution in Shillong's fashion industry.
On November 25, 2021, the Daniel Syiem ethnic fashion house in Shillong celebrated its 10th anniversary. The fashion brand was founded by fashion designer Daniel Syiem and his business partner Janessaline Pyngrope, and played a pivotal role in the revival of Ryndia silk, which is extracted from the cocoon of Niang Ryndia (Eri Silkworm) without killing it.
The core goal of the label is to protect and promote this traditional fabric hand-woven and woven by Khasi women in the Ri-Bhoi region of Meghalaya. It gives Ryndia the “visual appearance of hand-spun cotton or wool with a soft silk luster".
Daniel Syiem's brand mainly produces high-quality suits for women, using natural fabrics such as Ryndia, cotton and linen, and does not use any artificial chemicals to fix colors. Instead, they use natural dyes extracted from turmeric, charcoal, various berries, tea leaves, onion skins and even cow dung. From Shillong to major fashion events in Mumbai, Bangkok, London and Toronto, Daniel provides an international platform for this traditional natural fabric.
When Daniel and Janessaline started the business in 2011, the traditional Khasi practice of weaving Ryndia silk was slowly dying. Losing the fast fashion ecosystem, it needs someone to understand the intrinsic value of local weaving community work and provide better brand solutions for this sustainable, environmentally friendly and traditional approach.
"The traditional weaving of Ryndia silk is a dying art form," Daniel told Better India.
"Almost all Ryndia spinners and weavers are women, and they are sometimes single mothers who support their families. Since there is almost no market for their products, these women have given up weaving and returned to other industries such as agriculture. These products need to be upgraded. And put them on the market," he added.
He said: "Fortunately, the weaving industry has changed a lot in the past 10 years. Now there are women entrepreneurs who have established huge weaving stations in their villages and export their products abroad. Compared to when we first started, the attention to Ryndia is very high now. We are proud of it."
Daniel has been passionate about fashion design since he was a child. In his school notebook, he recalled drawing sketches of skirts. After graduating from Shillong High School, he wanted to pursue a career in fashion design. But there are hardly any designers in this city, and the fashion industry is more or less non-existent in Shillong and the Northeast.
Unwilling to take the risk of letting his son enter the fashion design school, his father suggested that Daniel take standard courses and make fashion design a "hobby." After majoring in sociology at St Edmund's College in Shillong, Daniel began to work towards his dream.
"It wasn't until the last year that I had the opportunity to participate in a fashion show called Young Talent Time organized by my university. That was where I showed my first collection, which was well received and made me selected to represent Megaraya. Bang participated in a regional fashion design competition. There, I won the Northeast Best Designer Award in 2000," he recalled.
He said: "I slowly started to do exhibitions in Shillong, building a series here and attracting some small customers," he also added that he also tried formal courses, but due to unavoidable circumstances, he quickly dropped out of school .
In all this chaos, he dabbled in other jobs, such as working in a call center, driving a taxi, being a waiter at the first coffee shop in Shillong, and then managing Platinum, one of Shillong's first nightclubs. During the two years he was running the club, he met Tennyson Lyngdoh, an official of the Sericulture Department of the Meghalaya State Government, who was managing the weavers in the Ri-Bhoi district.
"Tenny will come to Platinum for parties, but he also knows of my short career as a fashion designer. At nightclubs, he told me how the department can find people to revive, protect and promote this traditional fabric called Ryndia. He often asks I came down to meet the weavers who are engaged in making this fabric. After several persuasion, I finally went downstairs to meet these weavers. This incident was a real turning point. Seeing them create this fabric, and understand my idea of fashion Passion for design, I know this is my goal. This is now my business," Daniel recalled.
While becoming more familiar with the knitting community, he met Janessaline, who is currently the business director and co-founder of Daniel Syiem's Ethnic Fashion House. At that time, she was cooperating with the Meghalaya Rural Development Association and the Livelihood Improvement Finance Corporation of Meghalaya in Ri-Bhoi District (2009-10) to upgrade the level of traditional weavers and introduce new ones for them. , Safer weaving machine.
“I’ve never been a fan of the fashion industry. The clothes worn by designers have never made sense to me. When I met Daniel, this thinking process changed. I’m a humble person and don’t have a boast about him. I saw his works up close, and their durability and sustainability. Before "slow fashion" became a big event, he had been promoting it for several years. In all this, we all fell in love with Ri- Ryndia fabric produced by female weavers in the Bhoi district. This brought us together and established our brand," she recalled.
Their debut at Lakme Fashion Week (Spring/Summer) in 2013 was a huge success. The Times of India reported on May 25, “Another emerging designer, Daniel Syiem, presented a simple and elegant collection. From From dresses to elegant long dresses in bright earth tones, designers have attracted attention with their creativity and design aesthetics."
Although their debut was memorable, they encountered some real challenges from the beginning.
"Daniel specializes in designing clothing and apparel, but I don’t have the technical knowledge or qualifications to run a fashion store. We have made a lot of attempts, experienced a lot of trial and error, and had painful experiences when trying to establish the "Daniel Syiem" label, but Facing a lot of criticism and lack of support from government and private groups. The only thing that keeps us going is the support, love and encouragement of family and friends, as well as the passion and enthusiasm of female weavers to produce Ryndia fabrics for us," she said.
"Investment originally came from our savings and several angel investors. Over time, we created a niche market for ourselves and won opportunities for people to continue to promote our endangered craft and reshape the weaving community. Appreciation," she said.
In a short documentary about Ryndia made by Daniel Syiem on YouTube, a weaver from Umtngam village can be heard saying: “These butterflies lay eggs and Niang Ryndia (Eri Silkworm) hatches from these eggs. We are in the whole area They are raised in Niang Ryndia’s home. At this stage, Niang Ryndia feeds on leaves. After the silkworm has processed its body waste, it crawls back to its original position and begins the cocooning process. Now for the covered Niang Ryndia, we remove the insects from the cocoon , And then we can choose to eat the insect or sell it. However, the cocoon is cooked to produce yarn for weaving."
The spinning and weaving techniques of yarn made from Ryndia cocoons have been passed down from generation to generation. Women mainly need to do the work of collecting cocoons, spinning and weaving Ryndia fabrics. To improve the texture, luster and color of silk, these cocoons are degummed by boiling in an alkaline solution of soap, soda and water. After completing this process, they were beaten into flat round strips and hung to dry.
The result is a fluffy white fiber, which is the beginning of the spinning process. After this process, natural dyes are used and the fabric is woven.
“We source fabrics from the villages in Ri-Bhoi district, especially from Umtngam, Birsik and Umkon. We source this fabric throughout the year, and the procurement process for natural dyes is mainly seasonal, but turmeric, tea and shellac Except for the dyes produced. Since we only purchase hand-woven and hand-woven Ryndia (Eri Silk) fabrics, our quantity is limited due to the natural process of the fabric and the time required for weaving. On average, we purchase about 500 meters per year Plant-dyed Ryndia fabric. We work in an unorganized department because most of our weavers are individual breeders and weavers. When the brand places an order, they will come together. An inner understanding between weavers," Janessaline explained.
Some women they associate with are engaged in weaving and spinning at the same time. However, not all spinners are weavers, and vice versa. The label places orders with them, but does not pay them the wholesale price. "In my own way, I am practicing fair trade, and since they have done most of their work, they have generated about 70% of their total revenue by selling their products. After all, we are acquiring their finished products. Daniel is doing After contact, we carried out brand promotion and marketing for them. Because we use authentic fabrics, especially focusing on hand-woven and hand-woven, our output is very limited, so our market is very niche. We do not pursue mass consumption or Commercialization," she added.
The women we work with are not full-time weavers. They work part-time because they have other ways of generating income, such as agriculture. The number of finished fabrics from the label's origin depends on their availability and the continuous farming season of natural dyes.
"However, every three months, I put forward our minimum requirement, that is, Daniel needs 100-150 scarves and shawls and a certain size to make his clothes. No matter what colors are available in that season, we ask them to bring them. . Some colors are available throughout the year, while others are available seasonally. For those seasonal ones, I ordered more so that we have stock all year round," Janessaline explained.
Ryndia is often worn as a traditional shawl by Qassi men and women. For many years, Daniel has used this fabric, processed it, and used their designs to turn them into clothing.
"In addition to shawls and shawls, we also make clothing, mainly women's clothing, but we also have some exclusive products for men's clothing. We also make some household goods and accessories. According to the finishes, colors and patterns we weave, only one meter of Ryndia fabric will It costs you 1,800 to 3,000 rupees because it is hand-woven and we use natural dyes. We price our garments based on the design and the work we do on the garments,” Daniel said.
The label extracts a large amount of natural dyes from items such as turmeric, charcoal, different kinds of berries, tea and even cow dung. For example, the color produced by cow dung is beige green, which is actually one of Daniel's favorites. The iconic styles they used on Ryndia are also used in other fabrics such as cotton, linen and cotton.
"I drew a lot of inspiration from the dress of local women. For example, we have Jainsen, which is essentially two pieces of fabric knotted or pinned to the shoulders. We have Jainkyrshah, which is like an apron, just a tie. The fabric on the shoulders. I drew a lot of inspiration from these local costumes, but when it comes to our traditional patterns and patterns, our inspiration is very limited. Having said that, our designs always have a significant modern feel ," he explained.
"To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we launched our own Signature Collection. We selected the 10 best styles the brand has shown over the years and used fabrics other than Ryndia to integrate them into the front line," he added.
One of the most common colors and design patterns is the turmeric yellow and red grid pattern. This is one of the main Ryndia models, passed down from past generations. Men wear pure off-white solid Ryndia, and women wear ginger and red traditional plaid. Despite its limitations in colors and patterns, Ryndia fabrics are very rich and versatile.
The brand has a large number of customers in Shillong, but because they have been hosting shows around the world, they also have customers in cities such as London and Toronto. With the tenth anniversary celebration, they finally launched their online portal. However, in addition to their online portals, their social media pages (Instagram, Facebook) are also the source of many inquiries about their products. At the same time, they have a flagship store in Shillong.
Daniel Syiem's ethnic fashion house has had the biggest impact in Shillong. Since its birth in 2011, the local fashion industry has made considerable progress in the past ten years.
"This city has a lot of upcoming mature fashion designers, and they are doing very well. There is huge competition between them. The idea of wearing designer brands in the city has gained more recognition. Today there is one in Shillong. NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology), many young people in this city now take fashion design as a career. When I was invited to give lectures in schools and universities, many young people wanted to know how the fashion industry works. This is not only about design, It also involves anything related to fashion, such as styling, makeup or photography, which is far from when I first started. Fashion designers from Shillong are recognized in India. It is safe to say that we have played a role in these developments. Important role," Daniel said.
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