Textile designer Gaurang Shah weaves new stories for handlooms

June 9, 2018

Hyderabad-based textile designer speaks about the timeless beauty of handlooms, and how he took up the challenge of reviving the traditional fabric

If you’ve been imagining handlooms as the coarse, knobbly fabric of yesteryear that was inexpertly woven, shoddily dyed and archaic in style, think again. With celebrity designers entering the fray, handlooms have moved to a new arena of glamour where sparkling colour, bold design and fine weaves have taken centre stage.

It has been a long and arduous journey for designer-for-the-stars and patron-of-weavers Gaurang Shah, who has always been passionate about handlooms.  Today, his artistry spills from the looms of his weavers, where new and intricate patterns emerge in textures and weaves that defy the imagination.

Gaurang Shah

"Whenever you choose to wear a handloom saree or outfit, you make a statement in more ways than one. It not just preserves our heritage, but it also helps the artisan"

The Handloom sector is second only to agriculture in terms of employment generation. To give it the online thrust today, the textiles ministry has engaged 21 ecommerce companies for online marketing of handloom products. A joint study released by ASSOCHAM-Resurgent on 'Women in Textiles & Handicrafts Industry,' reveals that the market size of India's textile market is expected to touch $250 billion in the next two years from the current level of $150 billion.

Today, with modern retail outlets like Fabindia, Nicobar, Anokhi, Bandhej, Good Earth, and so many other stores offering beautiful handlooms, the fabric is perceived as exotic and expensive. It is much in demand and much loved across the country today, and no one is happier to see the popularity of handlooms than Gaurang, who champions the cause of weavers across the country.

The celebrity designer spoke to YourStory about handlooms, reviving the craft and about his latest collection. Edited excerpts:

What is so special about handlooms and textile art?

Handloom textiles are some of the most-exquisite fabrics in the globe today, and they are not old-fashioned. In fact, the world looks to India for handloom textiles. Textile art is about creating heritage textiles that befit the modern woman. We make sure that traditional weaving techniques are amalgamated with contemporary textures and cross-border designs. Today, I work with more than 700 weavers in the country.

Tell us about your work on reviving handlooms.

In 2001, when traditional handlooms were fading into oblivion, due to declining patronage and an onslaught of growing popularity for embroidered saris like georgettes and chiffons, I took up the challenge of reviving the traditional handlooms and bringing them back in vogue. In 2012, we took the national and international fashion industry by storm with our hand-woven ensembles. Ever since, we have constantly been on the radar for heritage outfits and sarees.

What are the main trends of this season, especially with monsoon around the corner?

Airy light fabrics like chiffon, organza in bright textile techniques like Shibori, block print, and tie & dye are very popular this season.

Can you give us some style tips?

Embrace the saree. It is the most sensuous garment for the Indian woman. I have made so many of my clients rekindle their love for this garment. A handloom saree can look very glamorous and modern, with playful blouses.

Where do you find inspiration for each collection that you do?

I find inspiration during my travels, especially when I notice certain kinds of architecture or visit museums, view temple art or the beauty of nature.'

Traditional fabric meets contemporary style

Can you tell us about your latest collection, Neel?

Neel is a collection of 44 woven indigo themed hand-woven masterpieces that include women’s and menswear. We brought back the ‘Hath-Katti’ (cut and sewn by hand) technique after five decades. The hand spun yarns are from various clusters in India and the indigo dying has been done in the interiors of Gujarat. The special shades of Indigo have been achieved using a tedious process that takes more than 30 days to get one shade. These shades of indigo have been incorporated in weaves of Kota, Benaras, Patan Patola, Khadi and Dhaka.

What are the best international fashion trends this year?

One of the most fun trends of the season we can see is the ‘fringe’. It is more over-the-top than ever this year. You will spot ultra-glam, dramatic fringes on many ensembles on the runways over this season. A lot of art-infused pieces are also making a statement now. It is a rich and colourful way to shake up any wardrobe. As ultra violet is the official colour of 2018, pretty pastel shades of lavender are in vogue, and the pale hue was all over the runways this season.

Who are your style icons and why?   

The women who have worn and embraced the saree are my style icons. Bollywood actors like Rekha, Kirron Kher, Tabu, Vidya Balan and Sonam Kapoor are my patrons. My clients have been my biggest motivators, and are my brand ambassadors. I have clients who wore my creations even when handlooms were not in ‘fashion’ once upon a time.

What are some of the styles of 2017 that you are happy to bid goodbye to?

I am happy to say goodbye to the tassels. From earrings to shoes, buttons to saree pallus, tassels made its way into almost every outfit and it is high time to say goodbye to the trend. The other trend is the asymmetric sleeve – they look good, but there was just too much of this style this season and it ruined the feel of the entire outfit.

What are your future plans and designs for the fall-winter line?

The fall-winter line is going to be opulent, brocaded, traditional, and understated.


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