Known as textile designer and weaves revivalist, Gaurang Shah is one of the most respected designers in India who has been constantly working with weavers to popularise their traditional craft. He now supports almost 700 weavers across India — in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh etc., and is especially engaged in a weaving technique called Jamdani. Jamdani is a brocaded fabric woven with discontinuous extra weft yarns.
His design forte lies in revival and cross-over influences. He believes his strength lies in weaving intricate designs and patterns on textiles. “What others do through printing, embroidery or by attaching borders and motifs, I do through weaves. That’s my biggest strength. I thrive on ‘Innovation’,” Shah tells Guardian 20.
The designer is recently making headlines for his “Muslin” collection which he is going to showcase on Sunday at Lakme Fashion Week SS ’17 show. This collection features a number of traditional fabrics with a totally fresh twist.
Speaking about his Muslin collection, Shah says, “It’s going to be white, with a dash of silver and gold. The collection titled ‘Muslin’ will feature 40 ensembles that include my brand characteristic saris, anarkalis and lehengas. It is inspired by the romance of nature. Muslin echoes the blissful ‘Summer Season Fashion Comfort’, beautifully handcrafted to perfection. It breathes ‘Freshness’. In Muslin, we are using weaves and techniques from West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.”
Having been associated with approx 700 weavers across India today, his association with weavers started due to his instant love for woven textiles and the aspiration to preserve this beautiful Indian textile heritage that he attributes as a catalyst to connect with the weaving community.
Way back in 2001,when the traditional handlooms were fading into an oblivion, due to declining patronage and an onslaught of growing popularity for embroidered saree like georgettes and chiffons; weaver communities were mired in debt traps, uncertainty and deep economic stress. As Shah grew amidst textiles, he found out the key factor that didn’t raise enthusiasm for Indian Textiles at that time was lack of appeal and modernity. So, he took up the challenge of reviving the traditional handlooms and bringing them back in vogue while working closely with weavers who knew this art.
Way back in 2001,when traditional handlooms were fading into an oblivion, due to declining patronage and an onslaught of growing popularity for embroidered saree like georgettes and chiffons, weaver communities were mired in debt traps, uncertainty and deep economic stress.
He has also initiated a Jamdani weaves’ wave in the villages of Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Kolkata. Speaking about this technique, the designer says, “I had an instant love for Jamdani weaving technique and I knew this technique will allow me to break conventions and set new Indian textiles’ trends. I also felt that Indian heritage canvas was so huge that every ancient artist work provides you an opportunity to think differently. My canvas to tell the Indian Heritage Story was the 6-yard-saree. It gave me a fantastic opportunity to tell stories woven with absolute precision using the Jamdani weaving. Over the years we have introduced some of the finest variations in Khadi, Cotton, Silks.”
For Shah, it was a painstaking process. Initially, as there was tremendous amount of reluctance to change. He says, “My design challenges the weaver. It takes a minimum of five to six months to weave a saree. I had a hard task every time, to motivate my weavers. I challenge them with new designs and give them the confidence about its economic potential globally. They find it motivating to work with me and my team. We make them believe that hand craft will never fade as long as we can keep pace with modern times without losing the essence of our culture and tradition which is unparalleled the world over. They love it as much as I love them. What is immensely satisfying is that even the generation next is finding it highly rewarding and are willing to master the craft sitting in the looms of their parents.”
Talking about his experience working with his weavers, he says, “We work like a family, passionate about our goals. The foundation of our growing collaborative relationship is that we constantly motivate each other to raise our creative bar. Each time we meet with a challenge to weave an intriguing design, texture and pattern. We also stay connected using technology exchanging ideas and discussing new ways of approaching the weave that will make every piece that we make unique.”
Not Only Jamdani and Khadi designs, the textile designer is also into indigenous designs like Calico or the Baroda style Navari drape which defines modern Indian aesthetic. Speaking about such designs which focus on period fashion, he says, “A lot of my inspiration comes from history and temple art. I love translating our cultural stories in my collection. ‘Calico” Draws inspiration from the 1920-1930 and the various trends of this intriguing era, each piece in this collection by Gaurang evokes a unique nostalgia. The gowns feature popular silhouettes from the “Belle Epoch” period. Women, whose personalities have been woven into the fabric of Indian history, come alive in this inspiring collection.
“The Baroda style Navari drape that was Chimnabai’s signature enters the new millennium with a long jacketed blouse. The saree draped as a gown; Sunity Devi’s signature style in England creates a stunning style statement. The traditional saree is subtly reinvented into a garment that is the epitome of the modern Indian aesthetic.”
Talking about his larger goal for weavers, the designer concludes, “I find it immensely satisfying that our weaver community has grown from a mere 10 to 700+ and growing family. Our goal is to expand this cluster in every location that we establish from now on besides consolidating the ones that we have now. The weavers consistently need a right direction and have to adapt to change. I believe that bringing back happiness in the weaver communities is the true fabric of culture and revival of tradition.”