“Our heritage textiles and contemporary aesthetics have gained tremendous admiration for their distinctiveness and body friendliness.”

Hyderabad Designer Gaurang Shah unveiled his latest Spring/Summer Collection, 15 “Kalpvriksha” at the Lakmé Fashion Week Summer Resort, 2015 recently.

Kalpavriksha, the ‘wish-fullfilling’ divine tree in Hindu mythology was the inspiration for Gaurang’s Lakme Fashion Week Spring/summer 2015 collection this season at Indian Textile Day. He played with his transcendental jugalbandi between jamdani, phulkari, chikankari and kalamkari,striking an exquisite balance between heritage heirloom and contemporary designs in the  signature craft-couture flair anarkali, ghaghras and sarees.

The award winning textile designer and weave revivalist says this collection is a representation of the tree of life, woven by the jamdani weavers from Andhra Pradesh and Bangladesh, symphonized with phulkari, kalamkari and chikankari patterns. It is also a perfect tribute to the beautiful summer friendly fabric and our ancient mythology. Kalpavriksha branches bore every kind of fruit and flower one wished for, and the apple of the tree was believed to have the virtue of conferring eternal life upon human that tasted it. This very idea of the tree inspired the whole collection.The gorgeous Vidhya Balan donned a striking Organza Kanjeevaram Saree gracing the ramp with the designer.

In a detailed interview, Shah talks about his love for textiles, his new venture, how Indian fashion has evolved over the years and how committed the new Indian designers are towards reviving the traditional Indian textile trends.

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Q:How Indian fashion has evolved over the last decade according to you? Where do you see India on the global fashion map?
A: Fashion and fashion consumers in India have become more conscious about fabrics and are beginning to prefer eco-friendly fashion trends. They are increasingly embracing hand-woven and handcrafted apparels as they begin to appreciate and value of the hand craftsmanship and skill. On the fashion runways, designers are beginning to focus on high-level of originality and detailing to present traditional Indian textile in a whole new manner, consistently. The most noteworthy of all is the recent addition of the concept of ‘Indian Textile Day’ in highly recognized fashion shows like the Lakme Fashion Week.
On the global fashion map, India is at the forefront for its wide-ranging fabrics and textiles offerings. However, our brilliance in the art of tailoring western outfits has a long way to go.

Q: Is India on the way of becoming the hub of a new fashion movement setting the 21st century fashion aesthetics?
A:India has gained immense global attention over the years. It has a huge potential to become world’s finest traditional textile fashion destination.Our innovations in heritage textiles and the contemporary aesthetics they offer, have gained tremendous admiration for their distinctiveness and body friendliness.

Q: What were your memorable fashion moments in the last decade? Do you feel global acknowledgement is very important for Indian fashion?
 Being invited for the Berlin Lavera Eco. Fashion show has been one of the finest recognition that I received  for my work in Jamdani and the modernization of Khadi. I have always believed that Indian Textiles have tremendous potential to gain prominence in the fashion world.The other significant moment was when I got the best Indian Designer award in the Indian Textile Category at the Lakme Fashion Week last year for my design in Kanjeevaram silk that had a hint of Kalamkari art both in saris and outfits. What also has been most satisfying for me was to bring the traditional Saree back in vogue by giving the 6 yards, a new dimension by introducing them with a bigger border. My passion for Jamdani technique also gave me the freedom to weave designs that were never seen before, to suit every class.Today, celebrities, both young and elderly embrace our heritage textiles who otherwise relied on sequins and nets only.
As the popularity of our creations grew, it also gave us an opportunity to expand our footprints nationally. We have Brand ‘GAURANG’ stores in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata and three brand ‘Vaya’ stores in Mumbai. Soon, we will set our footprint in the Middle-East.

Q:Do you believe that the rise of social and digital media has an important role to play in the rise of Indian fashion?
A:Absolutely! Today most of our creations are introduced through the social medium like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, besides the look books which are constantly updated. None can match the reach and impact of social media when it comes to fashion consumption. It is the conversations, likes and shares that makes a design universally relevant and desirable.
It is because of these platforms, fashion designers like me were able to reach out to international consumers in the US, Middle East, Singapore, Africa and Canada.

Q: The new designers are dreaming big and are using every possible medium to promote their work with social media to their advantage which wasn’t the case ten years ago.  What role are they playing in the rising market of Indian fashion?
A: A lot of the new age designers are taking the hand-loom fabrics and converting them into western silhouettes, which is really commendable. What is even more noteworthy is that they weave them to match diverse cultures. Indian designs have also gained a number of Hollywood and international celebrity’s endorsement in recent times.
However, to sustain this incremental attention, we need to maintain distinctiveness by reflecting our heritage weaves, in their natural order.

Q: Indian fashion has much more to it except the Bollywood charm. What is your take on Bollywood’s ability to move the Indian fashion market?
A:We are a mature fashion consumer market as we have global fashion market access due to the explosion of social media and online e-tail industry.Bollywood certainly plays a very significant role in spreading a certain style/fashion trend among the masses. People in India follow their celebrities and their style and it does influence their look and style every day.The Hindi film industry has always been a big platform to introduce new fashion but  the need of the hour however is to promote hand-woven heritage textiles on screen and redefine glamour through Bollywood on new lines.

Q:Do you seek inspiration from any international design trend? What else motivates you as a designer?
A:Most of the international design trends are admirable because of their  outstanding tailoring skills, the fine cuts and the perfect finesse. As far as designing is concerned, my belief is that our history and culture offers tremendous design inspiration, like the paintings of Taj Mahal and Panchatantra stories, the historical temple carvings and more on the same lines. There is still so much to discover.

 Q: Indian Fashion Weeks are much talked about now and some international designers have been acknowledging it.  How do you look at this development?A: India offers immense potential for International designers, as the fashion consumption market has grown multi-fold. The fashion consumer’s understanding about fashion is also much more mature now as they have access to both domestic and international fashion trends right away through a variety of mediums.It is very heartening to see our fashion shows receiving global attention as the shows we perform have begun to exude international class and style. This is a big step for India to walk alongside the best in the world. While there is a rising number of International fashion work moving towards India, what I would also like to see is our fashion art garnering equal recognition, and gain regular invitations to showcase our craftsmanship in  New York, Berlin, Paris and Milan Fashion weeks.

Q: Do you see fashion as a medium of presenting any social cause like the development of handicrafts and encouraging textile artisans? What other cause can fashion take up and work towards it?
A:  We must work towards rebuilding the confidence of the weaving community and help them sustain their occupation that would have faded away in history if not for the motivation along with artistic challenge that new-age designers gave them. Designers have certainly helped in reviving the traditional craft by showcasing hand woven creations on fashion runways that created demand value for them. From a humble number of 10 weavers a decade ago, presently, I collaborate with more than 500 weavers across the country which itself demonstrates the development. Fashion events like Lakme Fashion Week that has a dedicated ‘India Textiles Day’, also gave a major boost to the development of Indian textile and innovation in the area of traditional handlooms. The government must also take steps in the area of traditional crafts industry to boost its growth.

Q:So what’s new this year from brand ‘Gaurang’?
A:This year, we are experimenting with various textures in the traditional crafts. For instance, organza that was restricted to Benarasi weave has been infused into Kanjeevaram, making the traditional Kanjeevaram saree, a contemporary heirloom. Similarly, Kota texture has been infused into the Uppada silk for 2015.
For summer 2015, we will introduce new twists in our collections with natural dyed indigo, madder, yellow in hand-painted kalamakri and hand block-printed Khadi. These sensibilities combined with the art of Jamdani’s inculcated in ready-to-wear silhouettes like afghani kurta, ijars, anarkali, dupattas will mark the next collection. Keeping silhouettes classic and neat, the experiments will reflect newness with textures and crafts of Indian textiles.

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