PURNAM --- The Path to Responsible Entrepreneurship

Creation by Vishal Kapur who will be exhibiting at Purnam

Is there an alternative Delhi that loves subtle, slow and sustainable fashion? Actually, there is. There is a batch of sartorial cognoscenti and connoisseurs who passionately flaunt handwoven, handspun and handcrafted apparels. Be it separates or saris, this burgeoning tribe has taken to the organic fashion movement very seriously.
Then, why is it that when I walk into any fashion and lifestyle exposition in the city, all that I witness are ornate, heavily embellished clothes far removed from slow or sustainable. In the garb of couture and wedding wear, most often than not there are designer creations that, I’m afraid, use synthetic fabrics and machine-crafted embroidery. And strangely, every single thing looks like the other.
But there’s hope yet. For the last 12 years, there is one exposition that has been promoting responsible fashion, lifestyle and crafts. Purnam (this year the exhibition is on July 20th) has been an arena where Indian handloom, weaves and crafts have got a major fillip. This is an exhibition that has encouraged new fledging labels, artists and brands to consolidate themselves through recognition and sales. In short, it has spurred new flights of entrepreneurship in fashion, food, art and crafts. 
Team Purnam. (From left) Jani Dhingra, Indu Gupta, Sarita Baluja and Saroj Bhatia

It all started with four enterprising women. Associated with the NGO Akshya Pratisthan for many years now, Sarita Baluja, Indu Gupta, Jani Dhingra and Saroj Bhatia, decided to host Purnam as a platform for the entrepreneurs who get side-lined from Akshya Bazaar, a fashion fete that the NGO conducts every year at a foreign embassy. “Not every new label makes it through the stringent screening process,” says Baluja.
This strict selection procedure egged the four Samaritans on to give the discarded a second chance. “We decided to launch Purnam 12 years ago so that those who could not make it to Akshya Bazaar would be able to showcase their ware here. Our aim is to encourage new entrepreneurs. They should get a chance to dream. We have seen how talented young artists get noticed at Purnam when the visitors pick up their art that otherwise go unnoticed due to the lack of marketing facilities and interface. Bagesh, a Madhubani artist from Bihar, is one such lad. He told us how it was difficult for him to get his work noticed. We gave him a chance at Purnam and his wall paintings flew away real fast,” elaborates Bhatia.
Creation by Sonam Dubal, exhibiting at Purnam
Signifying completion, Purnam is also a holistic approach to empower artisans and weavers by being a bridge between them and the consumer. “While we are the oldest lifestyle exhibition, we feel that Delhi is yet to learn of the rich weaves and crafts of India thoroughly. When you walk into this exhibition, you see a different world---a world away from in-your-face bling and OTT silhouettes. Purnam is a platform where you see exquisite handwoven saris, breezy separates and an easy style that is wearable. Food products that are organic and nutritious. This is pret wear that is approachable, couture that is heritage and classic. There is art that flaunts the mastery of the craftsperson. This is a world of design that is vintage and opulent but in a very subtle way,” says Dhingra.
Creation by Samant Chauhan
This year Purnam has gone an extra league and brought under their wing five designers who have made their mark in the field of fashion design with their creations. Renowned crafts revivalist and textile doyen Madhu Jain will be showcasing her breath-taking ikat creations. The other names are Sonam Dubal, Charu Parashar, Samant Chauhan and Rina Dhaka. Apart from them there are about 80 exhibitors to pick from. The options are exhaustive. The curation is done by the four owners who have honed their skills and knowledge by getting involved in Akshya Bazaar all these years.
Organic food products from Nutreen that will be available at Purnam
Gupta recalls that they launched Purnam for the first time in Ludhiana to gauge the market for handwoven and organic products. “We also wanted to help entrepreneurs to achieve his dream. We would be just a means for him to do that. Our responsibility would be to get him a prospective buyer. Today our aim is to get to Delhi something that has never been showcased,” says Gupta.
It doesn’t stop at mere hosting an exhibition. Purnam regularly takes in five NGOs gratis so that they are encouraged to create and sell. “This leads to employment generation and bolsters the confidence of the poor women and children in these organisations,” says Baluja.

Purnam will be open for public on July 20th at The Ashok Hotel from 10.30 am to 8 pm. I will be going. And after getting a preview of the labels and designers, I don’t think it will be a good idea for you to miss it. Do drop in… And shop, too! There’s beauty, food, fashion, accessories and art! Remember, there’s nothing like responsible fashion… In fact, it is the mantra that will soon be an anthem…
Creation by Vishal Kapur

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