“All our clothes and their cuts are inspired by the national dress of Bhutan. Our clothes are free size, easy to wear, comfortable and pair well with any accessories”, says Chandrika Tamang, 35, Founder, CDK, a sustainable fashion label based in Thimphu, the capital of the Kingdom of Bhutan.
Bhutan is a beautiful mountainous landlocked country located in the Eastern Himalayas between India and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. “The official dress code, instituted in 1989, states that Bhutanese wear traditional attire while attending work, school and official functions. The traditional attire of the women is a kira (a long wrap-around skirt), a wonju (a long-sleeved blouse) and a toego (a short jacket), while the men wear a gho (a knee length robe) with a kera (cloth belt). A ceremonial scarf is worn on special occasions”.
A love for natural fibre fabrics had Chandrika design garments for her family, friends and herself while she worked at a bank. Going through resources on drafting and pattern-making on the internet, and pursing a one-month training in tailoring and fashion design at NID, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India, she honed her innate skills to design stylish garments inspired by traditional Bhutanese attire.
As appreciation for her work increased, Chandrika felt there was a need to collaborate with local artisans and showcase Bhutanese culture and textiles to the world. In 2014, she left her bank job to dive into the world of sustainable fashion. Withdrawing her savings and later getting funds from Loden Foundation, she went on to set up a studio and boutique in Thimphu.
The CDK label features a range of garments for women comprising dresses, jackets, ponchos and kaftans; accessories like belts, purses and bags; and a home collection featuring cushion covers and throws that, inspired by Bhutanese architecture, hope to connect customers to Bhutanese homes.
The fabrics are designed by Chandrika; a sample of each design is woven by a master weaver, and then these samples are distributed to weavers in the community to weave. The fabrics may be plain weave or feature traditional Bhutanese textile motifs (such as the eternal knot and star) in beautiful natural colours inspired by nature.
The fabrics are hand-woven with cotton, eri silk and woollen yarns that are sourced locally and from India. The yarns are dyed with natural dyes as well as azo-free dyes when strong colours are required. The garments are also designed by Chandrika and stitched by women at the studio in Thimphu.
“CDK aspires to be a brand with value. I am very conscious of the fibres used for the textiles of our garments, of creating value for the community, and of empowering home-based women weavers”. Chandrika received the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year(2017) award for starting a new venture supporting women.
In keeping with the CDK’s ethos of sustainability, Chandrika plans to have fabrics hand-woven with hand-spun yarns; design zero-waste garments; and have the hand-stitched (rather than machine stitched) garments in the future.
Text by Brinda Gill