A twist to tradition

A twist to tradition

Modern take

A twist to tradition

How many times have you stared at a fantastically worked sari or outfit and wondered about its intricacies and history? On these lines is Ashdeen Lilaowala and his label ‘ASHDEEN’, which concentrates on hand-embroidered saris and other creations that are done in Parsi ‘gara’ tradition.

A graduate of the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, Ashdeen observes that ‘gara’ embroidery is a combination of culture and art. “This kind of embroidery is where one can see a mix of Chinese embroidery with Persian, Indian and British traditions. In this form, one can see embroidery in realistic forms and not abstract or geometric patterns. Here a bird will look like a bird. There will be variations given to the style and the embroidery is more about flora and fauna,” says Ashdeen. 

This textile designer, author and curator, says that his love for embroidered saris started as a project. “After graduating in textile design from the NID, I started working with the Unesco Parzor Foundation. While I was there, I did a detailed research project on Parsi embroidery for the Union Ministry of Textiles.” He travelled through Iran and China to trace the routes and origins of the craft, and documented and researched several Parsi embroidery collections in various cities of India. “I’ve done a series of workshops on the Parsi ‘gara’ embroidery.”

This embroidery is mostly done on dark-coloured fabric like red, maroon, burgundy, black and purple with the work done in off-white, ivory or blue. Ashdeen has designed for varied clients, from  Hema Malini to Sonam Kapoor, and other industrialists. “They always want something different. My creations always keep the tradition intact yet give it a modern twist, which makes the designs striking. The works will be a contemporary version of a classic,” he says.

His works have a mix of everything, while following tradition — the motifs are the same but their propositions vary, mixed fabrics are used, applique or cutwork are used and embroidery with ‘zaru’ thread is also done. “One of the works I did had cranes in it, which were blown up in size,” he says. He has also tried tie-dye technique and other forms with this work. “Some of them work extremely well, and some don’t. It’s an evolution process and innovation is a bit part of it. I just make sure that the aesthetics of the form are kept, despite giving it a unique twist.”

Of the celebrities, he would like to see in a Parsi ‘gara’ sari, Ashdeen says that Aishwarya Rai Bachchan would look lovely in it. “She’s the right age for this kind of exquisite work. Also, she knows how to carry a sari elegantly and is very confident,” he  adds.
Ashdeen who will be in Bengaluru on April 11, for a learning event with ‘The Registry of Sarees’, says that the city is open to experimentation. “I’ve always got positive response when I’ve been here. The women of today has evolved and there is no discrimination in designs from across the country for them. The younger women are more sensitised to creativity and craftsmanship, which is very encouraging,” he says.

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