Every single journey begins with an ordinary story. It is up to us, however, to mould it into something memorable and worthwhile. She wanted to be a jonaki, a firefly, and though the destination is still a long way off, the journey continues to be inspiringly beautiful.
Calcutta-based designer, Tri Paul, still shies away from the word ‘designer’, but is very much an artiste in her own right. Think of something as ordinary as a gamchha, whose rightful place seems to be restricted within the portals of the washroom, and then think of that piece of cloth being transformed into something you could proudly flaunt before the masses, their eyes agape in wonder. Yes, Tri Di, as she is affectionately known, transforms such ordinary gamchhas into beautiful pieces of clothing like kaftans, tops, dresses, accessories and a host of other eye-catching articles.
>> From Tri’s Collection <<
The road she chose was one less traveled, and the hurdles were many. From Bangaon to Kolkata, she came to live in the city back in 2003. She was still pursuing her Masters and was in her final year when she got a job at St. Michael’s Academy as a dance teacher, prior to which she had been an Odissi dance teacher at Abhinava Bharati in Camac Street. While she was working in a school in 2009, her father passed away. From Abhinava Bharati she went to Salt Lake Point and eventually, to Usha Martin where she worked for three years and then left.
On the 31st of March last year after the central government came into power, news reached that their salaries were not going to come through for a while. Working at a school never appealed to her, since long hours meant hampering the time allotted for her dance practice. It was around this time that she went to Bangladesh.
“I see many people here who stitch blouses and similar things with gamchha,” she says, “and so I bought a few such gamchhas from there.”
When a friend of hers, a cinematographer by profession, came over to pay a visit, Tri Di made a gift of one such gamchha to her. Later, she found her friend using that gamchha in many different ways, as a scarf sometimes or as a camera holder. That gave her the idea of putting the gamchhas into use in a similarly creative way. With birthdays and ceremonies at hand, and minimal funds at her disposal, Tri Di decided to weave parandas for her friends as gifts. They were admired and consequently, she was asked to make more of those by friends and acquaintances. At the insistence of the director of her dance institute, she eventually went on to make parandas for everyone in the workshop.
Tri Di reached a milestone when she eventually went on to receive an order from Sappho, asking if she could make notebooks for them. She made one as a sample, which was appreciated, and she was given an order of sixty such notebooks.
“It was a very big moment for me,” she recalls, “because it marked my initiation into proper mainstream business. Eventually, I made my logo and cash memo. I decided to name the brand after my own name. The day I received my first paycheck, I could not write the amount in words on the cheque. It was a very emotional moment for me.”
As it goes, there were criticisms galore. The very idea of turning something as ordinary as gamchhas into something worth placing in one’s wardrobe was viewed with much skepticism.
“My mother, instead of encouraging, would often suggest that marriage was the best option I had at hand, since it would ensure my financial security,” she says. “Even some of my friends were astonished that instead of concentrating on my dance, I was designing clothes with gamchhas.”
That, however, did not deter her from pursuing what she had intended to, and her perseverance took her to the position she now holds. Even now, she says she works only when she gets an order, but eventually hopes to start working with her own investments. Her friends ushered her to make a Facebook page to promote her work, which eventually got a bigger platform this year, when one of her friends organized Basanta Utsob where she was given an opportunity to showcase her designs at a fashion show. Her mother and aunt, too, began showing a genuine interest in her work and started assisting her with it.
Tri Di tells us of a very poignant moment she shared with her family on the 25th of December last year.
“Earlier, whenever we went out together with my family, I had to pay all the expenses since I was the only working member. Last year, on the 25th of December, for the first time when we went out, I did not have to pay even a rupee. My mother and aunt paid all the expenses from their individual earnings. And the fact that they were housewives who had achieved financial independence made me extremely happy. It was an indescribable achievement.”
She tells us how even now the term ‘fashion designer’ associated with her name makes her flinch a little since she confesses she does not have too elaborated a personal fashion sense. She is happy doing her “little bit of something”, as she puts it and plans on working further with it. Tri Di reminisces about her own days as a college student and how owing to financial crunches, she could seldom buy clothes as she pleased. Keeping that in mind, she says how her target customers are mainly college going students, as a result of which her products are available at very nominal and affordable prices.
“I didn’t dream of becoming an engineer or a doctor when I grew up,” she says, “I wanted to be a firefly with a light of its own, to be that jonaki, that tiny glimmer of hope in someone’s darkness.”
The journey is ongoing, and there will be many more hurdles to come over. But the initial stride has been taken, and Tri Paul has successfully made her mark as a designer with a difference.
# Connect #