Getting Down to Basics

Anaka Narajanan’s Brass Tacks turns hand-crafted textiles into modern and fashionable silhouettes

Brass Tack’s vision pays homage to generational textile tradition and dresses the cosmopolitan woman in high-quality hand-crafted, all-natural fashion. Anaka Narajanan launched Brass Tacks in 2007 with ambitions to “translate high-quality, natural and hand-crafted textiles into modern silhouettes.” 

Anaka’s passion for textiles began in childhood. Her mother ran a Sari retail business and the girl found aesthetic pleasure in the feel, smell, and intricacy of the fabrics that surrounded her. She later worked at a consulting firm in New York after earning her Bachelor’s degree in Economics. While shopping, she realized she wanted to see the modern silhouettes that surrounded her in Indian textiles. Dissatisfied with the silhouettes she found when she returned home, to Chennai, Anaka began the label that would give handmade a chic context. She explains that fashion houses only offered two choices at the time: high-end and unaffordable to most, or low-end product that was either mass-produced, or shoddy handcrafted work. 

Brass Tacks set out to not only improve the reputation of Indian textiles, but to pay homage to a process Anaka remains passionate about.  For her, it is more about the process than the end product. There is a story in every textile her label works with.  She respects India’s textile heritage and this drives her to offer exquisite silhouettes. Anaka exudes deep admiration for the craft when she goes into detail about a textile, the clamp shibori, which appears in the label’s latest collection:

“Clamp shibori is a Japanese resist-dyeing technique where the fabric is folded in a particular pattern clamped down with two (usually geometric) shapes on either side, and then dyed. To achieve a discharge effect, you can dye the fabric first, and then start the process of folding, clamping, and dyeing- except instead of dyeing you dip it into a discharge bath that will displace the original dye of the fabric.

Clamp shibori calls for precision in skill, and it is labor intensive because each piece of fabric is carefully folded and clamped down in the same way, by hand.”

The Boheme shirts found in their latest collection are made from clamp-resist shibori. Two clamps act as the “resist”. They sandwich the folded fabric, resisting dye or discharge baths, leaving only the edges to be dyed or discharged. 

Anaka explains that her own design process can be intuitive. She first decides what fabric she’s going to work with, then drapes and plays with it until the design emerges. This process entails a few samples and revisions. 

All pieces are free of embellishment, instead placing all emphasis on the fabric, cut, and quality. Yet, the lines are not severe. The Monsoon Collection 2014 testifies to this. It appeals to the modern Bohemian woman- one who lives in a cosmopolitan world, yet stays grounded in her life philosophy. 

 Brass Tacks is a forward-thinking company whose philosophy applies to how they engage with clientele as well. In addition to photo shoots, press kits, and email, they interact via Facebook- allowing those outside the label an inside view into the process behind the product. Anaka says, “The kind of marketing we do on Facebook allows for our clientele to feel closely connected with the brand, and then purchasing a piece of clothing becomes more meaningful than just buying a tangible product.”

The label now employs twenty-four people, who work either in the workshop, the retail outlet, or the online store. The company plans to increase online sales, open a location in Bangalore, and find boutiques overseas to carry their line.

Brass Tacks principles of getting down to the basics reflects the long-standing tradition of handmade, all-natural product and Anaka’s vision of Indian textiles for the urban woman. 

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