Delhi-based fashion designer Manish Tripathi and his team of “more than 50, including technical persons, designers, tailors, communications leaders and stylists,” have revved up for his ‘Sheher Se Gaon Tak’ initiative. Tripathi aims to make the world’s largest cloth mask, with 100sqm of fabric.
The fashion designer at work
“The current record, reports say, stands in the name of Saudi Arabia (Jeddah) where a cloth mask of 72 sqm was made some time in August, we hope to go one better with 100 sqm,” said Tripathi. The team added that they are attempting a world record but, “this is so much more than numbers, or records.” Today morning, Tripathi, joined by a few others and a camera crew, will leave Delhi on a 20-day road journey, to at least 10 states sourcing fabric from women workers, to put the mask together. The fabrics will be sourced for a payment.
Participants in the Shehar Se Gaon Tak initiative
From the classily subtle chikankari of Lucknow, to the balle balle vibe of Phulkari in Punjab, the dazzling talent of the Madhubani experts of Bihar, the uber chic Ajrakh of Rajasthan, the stolidly traditional Paithani of Maharashtra, the mask is envisioned as a window to a kaleidoscope of cultures. “That is why we said it is not just an attempt at a world record. This is about showcasing Indian crafts with the thread of hope and new beginnings. It is about sunshine in an overall gloomy time,” said Tripathi.
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The roadmap for the mask begins today, with the journey for fabric collection. On December 20, all the fabrics are going to be sewn together for the mask at his New Delhi facility. On December 25, the mask will be put on a hot-air balloon at India Gate, “where we aim to have our president Ram Nath Kovindji launch the mask as we attempt to set a Guinness World Record,” said Tripathi, adding that they have made an application for officials to be present as per protocol for validation of the world record. An air charter company will arrange the massive hot-air balloon for the mask.
Anushka Sikka, team member of ‘Sheher Se Gaon Tak’ project emphasised, “This initiative is focussed on unity and women’s empowerment. We have been working with women from different villages across India during the lockdown, harnessing their skill to make masks, also roped them into apparel making. It is about giving them a lifeline, not just temporary help during the pandemic.” Sikka, who has a Masters in Fashion Management from NIFT, Delhi added, “There is palpable excitement even amid the last minute frenzy of setting off, covering at least 10,000 km on this road trip. Then, of course, the action will move back to New Delhi where we have four days to stitch the mask.”
Tripathi added that a camera crew will document the journey. “We have some sponsors, some well wishers and supporters who are as enthused as us. There have also been comments though, like why are you doing this? What do you wish to achieve?” explained the 34-year-old designer, who admits to a seesaw of emotions, but remains buoyed by the large scale emotional support. “My strength comes from the zeal and mind boggling talent of our village artisans, so many of them women. This is my mission to make them atmanirbhar (self-reliant), make it more than an outbreak buzzword,” said Tripathi. This young man, former national advisor to the Ministry of Textiles for India Handloom Brand, finished, “The future can be shaped by India’s cottage industries.”
The size of the mask being made
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