Fashion trends may come and go, but for Rekh & Datta designer Rebecca Layton, “slow” is the way to go. By “slow” we mean the slow fashion movement. So what is the slow fashion movement, exactly? Less about speed and more about education, the concept describes growing consumer awareness of the whole process of a product – from design to production to continuing use of the finished product. Traditional sustainable clothing has focused on the process itself, but the slow fashion movement focuses on the entire cycle from start to finish.
Though founded in 2013, Rekh & Datta creator Rebecca Layton’s love of textile design and block printing was born back in 2005 on her first trip to India. It was here that the artist first learned about the traditional techniques utilized for centuries by artisans in India. Layton was in India to teach textile design, but instead became the pupil when she discovered the collaborative, handmade process of block printing. Her eager immersion in the block printing process in India eventually lead to a prestigious Fulbright in 2010, where upon her return to India, the real research began. “That funding gave me the luxury to delve deeply into the technique, history, and process of collaboration.” Although a textile design business was not the original intention the artist had in mind, Layton soon realized that the processes and concepts learned after years of living in India could be successful in the U.S.
Exemplifying the heart of the slow clothing movement, Layton’s focus is on ensuring that the century-old process is honored. Although the resulting product will cost more, Layton isn’t concerned. Layton tells Ecouterre, “It’s of primary importance that everything is done slowly and with fair practice.” Sourcing the unique textiles come from years of experience of the industry in Jaipur. This education has also solidified the designer’s commitment to eliminate middlemen in production.
The words “rekh” and “datta” themselves mean line and shape. To create the fabrics, Layton employs artisans from local villages near Jaipur who use wood blocks carved by hand wherein each block is hand-printed with sustainable dyes on Indian cotton. The long and collaborative process tells a beautiful story with each pattern.
When asked about what inspired the designs, Layton told us “Part of the inspiration came from seeing the rapid growth in infrastructure and building in India. I have also been inspired by design coming out of the earlier 20th century, such as the Bauhaus in Germany, the Wiener Werkstatte in Austria, and Sonia Delaunay in France.” After the fabric was complete, Layton employed the help of Polish clothing designer Monika Jakubiak to transform the fabrics into wearable dresses and tops.
Layton hopes that Rekh & Datta will grow—no surprises here—slow and organically. Although Layton believes there is a market for slow clothing, she isn’t sure, and not too worried, about whether it will catch on a larger mass-produced scale. “I don’t think it will be for everyone, and I don’t think that it will ever be possible to be large-scale. It may cost more, but that is how slow clothes work.”
Education may be the key to exposing more to the concept of slow clothing and Layton plans to produce a feature-length documentary on block printing. Going back to her roots as an educator, Layton hopes to partner with a non-governmental organization that focuses on girls’ education.
The current line consists of scarves, a lovely knicker and cami set, a throw pillow, women’s and men’s tops, and several different dress styles. With items priced in the range of $70 – $300, you can get your hands on an exclusive design by contributing to Rekh & Datta’s Kickstarter campaign slated to end January 10.