Nur­tured by the past, weav­ing for the fu­ture

Apparel - - Contents -

Con­vers­ing with De­signer Gau­rang Shah

In con­ver­sa­tion with de­signer Gau­rang Shah, A. Das speaks to him about his work, his past and the in­spi­ra­tion that brought about his de­signs.

There’s a con­fi­dent charm to un­der­stated yet el­e­gant tra­di­tional weaves—del­i­cate, fine gos­samer fab­rics of chan­deri and

ma­hesh­wari, grand and bold kan­jee­varams and ba­narasi silks, elab­o­rate Paitha­nis and Pa­to­las, and in­tri­cate Khadi Jam­dani, to name a few! This ti­jori (vault) of In­dian weaves needed a fash­ion­able and con­tem­po­rary re­vival. And who could have done it bet­ter than the 2012 Lakme Fash­ion Week ‘Best In­dian weaves de­signer’ award win­ner—Gau­rang Shah. The de­cline of hand­loom, lead­ing to poor eco­nomic con­di­tions for the weavers, touched the heart of this young de­signer way back in the 2000s. In­stead of wait­ing for a right chance, he dived right in to the depths of these test­ing times and be­gan his re­vival stance; vil­lage by vil­lage, clus­ter by clus­ter!

TELL US YOUR ORI­GIN STORY. HOW DID YOU GRAV­I­TATE TO­WARDS TEX­TILES?

I am a self-taught tex­tile de­signer and I grew up amidst the charm of In­dian tex­tiles. My love for tex­tiles grew very early in my life as a young eight year old boy, vis­it­ing my dad’s cloth­ing store.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR PRESENT AND FU­TURE AS­PI­RA­TIONS?

We are play­ing a cen­tral role in re­viv­ing and sus­tain­ing hand­looms by cre­at­ing cu­rios­ity and in­ter­est in the buyer, apart from mak­ing hand­loom pro­duc­tion more chal­leng­ing and in­ter­est­ing. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, we are re­viv­ing the tra­di­tional hand­looms and hand em­broi­deries like parsi, kash­miri, chikankari, kutch, kasauti and bring­ing them back in vogue.

ARE YOU A REVIVALIST, A FUTURIST, OR BOTH? HOW WOULD YOU DE­SCRIBE YOUR­SELF?

I be­lieve in mar­riage of the past with the fu­ture; be­cause my in­spi­ra­tion stems from the past and

HOW DO YOU DIF­FER­EN­TI­ATE YOUR­SELF FROM MANY OF YOUR CON­TEM­PO­RARIES?

I am a tex­tile man. That is, what I think, gives me a huge plus. I breathe tex­tiles, colours, tex­tures all the time, right from the time I get up early in the morn­ing and be­fore I get in to the state of sound sleep. I am a con­stant dreamer awed by our tra­di­tions and her­itage and al­ways try­ing to find a way to trans­late its beauty and grandeur into beau­ti­ful fab­ric that women will hold for years, as a trea­sure.

TELL US A LIT­TLE ABOUT YOUR PRIS­TINE WHITE SS’17 COL­LEC­TION.

Our col­lec­tion ti­tled ‘ Muslin’ was in­spired by the ro­mance of na­ture. It is a play of white tones on fab­rics that are sheer and flowy. We have in­tro­duced a new di­men­sion of Jam­dani weaves, trans­lated into the finest Khadi, Kota and Or­ganza with yarns like Muga and Silk to cre­ate an al­lur­ing play of light and shadow. The in­tri­cate weaves are brought to life with the stun­ning Parsi

gara style and Chikankari em­broi­dery. Al­ter­nately, block prints in shades of white are used with care to ac­cen­tu­ate the lines and sil­hou­ettes of the col­lec­tion. Muslin has of­ten been called ‘wo­ven air’ for its fine and del­i­cate crafts­man­ship. Unit­ing this in­tri­cate fab­ric with flow­ing sil­hou­ettes like anarkalis, gararas, lehen­gas and saris; we cre­ated a bo­hemian rhap­sody in white. De­signed to make a woman feel like a god­dess as she treads on clouds, the col­lec­tion is ethe­real and time­less in its vi­sion as well as its aes­thetic.

POUR OUT YOUR HEART—TELL US A LIT­TLE ABOUT YOUR LOVE AF­FAIR WITH IN­DIAN TEX­TILES, ES­PE­CIALLY WITH KHADI.

My first op­por­tu­nity to in­no­vate khadi came when I got an in­vi­ta­tion from the Lav­era Eco Show at the Ber­lin Fash­ion Fes­ti­val, to show­case In­dian khadi to the in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence.

So we set out to be­gin our work on khadi with fine khadi of 80 to 100 counts to make the fab­ric mal­leable. We also wanted the fash­ion world to think be­yond ‘white’ that is re­lated to khadi. So, we used vi­brant flo­ral blooms, birds, but­ter­flies and fo­liage themes. Each pat­tern was metic­u­lously wo­ven us­ing our hall­mark Jam­dani weav­ing tech­nique, in a com­bi­na­tion of colours. The process was weari­some and took im­mense amount of time. We also in­tro­duced off-shoul­der flowy dresses with anarkali cuts, lay­ered tu­nics and short tops teamed up with dhoti-style pants. The khadi jump­suit with flo­ral pat­terns was an eye-opener to khadi lovers.

YOU WORK CLOSELY WITH THE WEAVERS ON THE ONE HAND AND ON THE OTHER HAND WITH MOST COV­ETED CELEBRITY NAMES. HOW CHAL­LENG­ING HAS THE JOUR­NEY BEEN FOR YOU?

It has been im­mensely sat­is­fy­ing. I have seen the tribe of my weavers grow from 10 to 700 and count­ing. What is also in­spir­ing is the way celebri­ties have shown their ad­mi­ra­tion and adora­bil­ity to­wards hand looms we have cre­ated. Each one of the celebs who choose to wear our cloth­ing has worn the la­bel for dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions rang­ing from a ca­sual out­ing, red car­pet ap­pear­ance to a bridal oc­ca­sion.The big­gest chal­lenge in this jour­ney was to keep me and my weavers mo­ti­vated with the out­comes, new­ness and ac­cep­tance to cre­ativ­ity. For me, ev­ery de­sign I cre­ate is a baby that needs nur­tur­ing and at­tain­ment of ma­tu­rity.

FROM THE GRASS­ROOTS’ LEVEL TO THE FI­NAL PROD­UCT. HOW DO YOU AC­COUNT FOR THIS JOUR­NEY OF AP­PAREL?

It is a jour­ney of trans­lat­ing my dream into re­al­ity. It is a path that has tremen­dous amount of

THE TI­TLES OF OUR COL­LEC­TIONS ARE IN­SPIRED BY OUR AN­CIENT CUL­TURE AND TRA­DI­TIONS FROM DIF­FER­ENT PARTS OF IN­DIA.

in­ten­sity that my weavers bring in as we coach them to up their skills and pick chal­lenges that didn’t ex­ist. We also keep an eye on trends both in the fash­ion plat­forms and retailing.

Our col­lec­tions ‘Ard­hangini’, ‘Cal­ico’, ‘Strid­han’ and ‘Pan­chali’ were a dis­tant cut away from the de­signs that fash­ion­istas knew.

YOUR WORK IS KNOWN FOR ITS IN­TRI­CA­CIES. HOW DO YOU AC­COUNT FOR THIS SU­PERB DE­TAIL­ING THAT EX­UDES IN BOTH THE DE­SIGN AS WELL AS THE VERY NAMES OF YOUR COL­LEC­TIONS TOO?

I at­tribute this it to the Jam­dani weav­ing tech­nique, it gives me im­mense free­dom to break con­ven­tion and think un­com­mon. We have also trained our weavers to change through mod­erni­sa­tion of con­cepts and ap­proach per­tain­ing to their weav­ing tech­nique. The im­por­tant thing is to stay con­nected to the woman’s heart for fash­ion and her tra­di­tions when she goes out to shop for oc­ca­sions that she chooses to wear an In­dian gar­ment. We have in­tro­duced un­seen colours, tex­tures, fu­sion of fab­rics that is ab­so­lutely ir­re­sistible.

The ti­tles of our col­lec­tions are in­spired by our an­cient cul­ture and tra­di­tions from dif­fer­ent

HOW DIF­FI­CULT OR EASY IT IS TO CON­VINCE THE CON­SUMER TO SWITCH TO HAND WO­VEN AND HAND­MADE EX­PE­RI­ENCES?

It was hugely chal­leng­ing ini­tially, in fact, there were times when my store shelves were over­flow­ing and there were no tak­ers. Back in early 2000, geor­gette and chif­fon saris were in style. But, as they sensed a change in tex­tures, colours de­signs and we helped them break myths about hand­loom, they be­gan to flock to my stores. To­day, they await my new col­lec­tion and some of them pre-book our up­com­ing sea­son’s col­lec­tions.

The chal­lenge is to con­stantly in­no­vate and keep my con­sumers want­ing for more sea­son after sea­son. To a large ex­tent we have been able to bring hand­loom to spot­light in fash­ion plat­forms. Our goal is to ex­pand its beauty and con­sump­tion world over.

WHAT ARE THE CLAS­SICS FROM THE GAU­RANG SHAH LA­BEL THAT HAS TRAN­SCENDED BOUND­ARIES OF TIME AND PLACE?

Ev­ery col­lec­tion that we roll out has a dis­tinc­tive ap­peal and class. Our big­gest in­no­va­tion has been the ‘Big Bor­der Sari’ which be­came an in­stant hit. Ev­ery place whether it is an Up­pada, Khadi, Paithani, Patan Pa­tola, Kota, Kancheepura sari, or our sal­war kameezes and anarkalis in pas­tel shades, off whites, whites with kalamkari prints, Parsi em­broi­dery and chikankari, among oth­ers, are clas­sics in their own ways.

YOUR LA­BEL IS AVAIL­ABLE WHERE ALL THE WORLD OVER TO­DAY?

Our la­bel GAURAG is avail­able in seven cities across In­dia, in Mum­bai we are known as VAYA. We op­er­ate as ‘Brand Gau­rang’ in Hy­der­abad, New Delhi, Kolkata, Chen­nai and Ben­galuru. We are avail­able for our cus­tomers in UK, US, Mid­dle East, Sin­ga­pore, Malaya­sia and Sri Lanka, through our e-por­tal, Face­book and In­sta­gram. We will con­tinue to ex­pand our vi­sion to sus­tain hand­looms and its em­i­nence in the world fash­ion plat­form both in In­dia and other parts of the world. We will fo­cus on in­tro­duc­ing the unique craft of Jam­dani weav­ing and its twists to the world through our fab­rics and fash­ion pieces.

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