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Neytt: a story from the backwaters of Kerala to the steps of Met Gala in New York
Carpets by Neytt, a century-old carpet-weaving business in Kerala
Image: Courtesy of Neytt

Neytt: a story from the backwaters of Kerala to the steps of Met Gala in New York

STIR talks to Neytt, a century-old carpet weaving business in Kerala, India, about their practice, design philosophy, and the famous 2023 Met Gala carpet.

by Sunena V Maju
Published on : May 15, 2023

The Met Gala, the year's biggest night in fashion unwraps at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, to the delight of some, the abhor of a few, and the indifference of others. With eccentric fashion definitions and references, Met Gala never fails to stir up conversation and this year was no different. As always the Met Gala 2023, was chaired by global fashion icon Anna Wintour, and co-chaired by Penélope Cruz, Michaela Coel, Roger Federer, and Dua Lipa. This year’s Gala paid tribute to one of the longest careers in contemporary fashion history, inspired by the exhibition Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty. On May 1, 2023, celebrities and renowned personalities took the stage at the steps of the Met, displaying their translation of the dress code In honour of Karl. We witnessed Doja Cat transform into the German fashion designer’s iconic cat Choupette, meowing in interviews, Anne Hathaway in an iconic Versace gown, Kim Kardashian donned in pearls, Jared Leto dressed as Choupette as well, and Janelle Monae’s layers of costume, to name a few. Transcending all the talked-about attires, the Met Gala buzz this year, also emphasised the red carpet, which was interestingly not red. STIR reached out to the designers behind this masterpiece and talked to them about the carpet design and their practice (the responses to which were thankfully in words and not meows).

Orchestrated by Sivan Santhosh and Nimisha Srinivas, Neytt by Extraweave has its roots in India's southernmost state—Kerala. With a heritage in carpeting that dates back more than a century ago, Neytt is a high-fashion brand weaving stories through rugs and carpets. Talking of their association with the Met Gala, their design philosophies and Neytte, Santhosh shares, “They (Met Gala design team) had very specific requirements as the artists in New York were to hand paint on the carpet. They wanted a perfect canvas for artists, which was of high-quality sisal fibres and tightly woven. Adding to it, this year, moving away from the traditional red colour, they opted for a lighter colour in a beige-white tone. Our design team worked along with them to understand what they require exactly and our major contribution was in manufacturing, making it flawless and making it as perfect as they wanted.”

The lighter colour was one of the challenges the Neytt team faced. “We had to specifically import sisal fibres from Madagascar where the best quality white fibres come from, which are longer and pure in colour. Our team then sorted out the best quality fibres from them and pass(ed) them through several stages of production. This included stages where the fibre is converted to yarn, then yarn passes through a series of blades, where all the protruding fibres are cut out, and converted to smaller bobbins, which are (then) fed into the loom which weaves this carpet. We manufactured 58 rolls of 4m by 30m,” Santhosh adds. These 58 rolls were then shipped to New York where the design team and installation team with the artists spent almost 70 days hand-painting the lines on the carpet.

A lesser-known fact is that Neytt also weaved the carpet for Met Gala 2022. However this year, the Met Gala design team’s intent was to make the carpet more fluidic, dynamic, and subtle. “Last year, it was more of a reddish tone with, again, hand-painted stripes. This year the design was also slightly different where ’S’ curve lines replaced straight parallel lines. They mentioned that it was inspired by English painter William Hogarth and the exhibition Line of Beauty.”

Neytt’s design explorations move beyond the Met Gala and carpet weaving. They collaborated with Dutch artist Niels Kiené Salventius to create a collection of rugs exhibited at Maison&Objet. Collaborating with designer Vanessa Meister Varma, they created an exquisite piece of hand-tufted bamboo silk rug under the collection Women Power. The collection was a tribute to women supporting and inspiring each other to grow.

Talking about their design journey, Santhosh narrates, “From the beginning, what I felt as a brand from Kerala was that a lot of design elements from the south are never showcased anywhere. They are only confined to the south of India and were not out there comparatively. That is one of the reasons why a lot of our collections are inspired by design elements from Kerala and from South India. One collection we did was based on the Nehru Trophy boat race in Kerala. While designing that, we went deep into the design process and actually sat down with the people who participate in the races, trying to understand what matters to them when they roll the boards. They spoke about a lot of synchronisation and rowing, the use of different elements, and the music which plays a big role in the race. These elements became the soul of the collection.”

With artisanal techniques rooted in historic stories of the weaving industry of the Venice of the East, Alappuzha in Kerala, Neytt continues to etch stories into the grains of the fibres marrying the craftsmanship of South India and the materials of East Africa. As they take this amalgamation to international stages, Santhosh concludes “One thing I'm really proud about working on the Met Gala carpet is that a lot of people found it inspiring. Some people got in touch with us saying that they are proud of the fact that this carpet was manufactured in Kerala, India. A lot of our employees were recognised this way too and they told me that they're very proud of the fact that they're working here. So that was a motivation for all of us, a lot of entrepreneurs, and a lot of artisans as well.”

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