Designer Gaurang Shah On Reviving Indian Weaving

I grew up around fashion & design
My father opened a saree blouse shop in 1962 and my brother and I would go there after school to lend a helping hand and that’s how we learnt about colour and patterns. I can remember being only 10 years old, in 1984 and realising how beautiful sarees are and that I needed to one day work with the people who made them; weavers. In 1999 we opened another store, in Hyderabad and that is where, at an exhibition, I met my first weaver and began to work on a collection and have now been working with them for over 15 years.

I would be nothing without my weavers
I was named Best Designer at the Lakme Fashion Week – it was great to receive such recognition but actually the award is for my weavers, each of them and the traditions that they continue through their work. They are extremely skilled at what they do and have been engaged in this art for many years.

Weaving isn’t dead!
Not one loom has closed since I started working with them. The weavers are ready to work with innovative designs, however they are sitting in villages. So whilst they possess impeccable technical ability, they do not necessarily have the knowledge of what modern women want. Collaborating with a designer allows them to sell more of their art. They recognise the fact that they have an opportunity to produce something different to what is available else where in the world, and they are ready to be innovative because they understand that it will be more lucrative for them as well. Furthermore, they understand that the more on trend they are; the more constant will flows in and the more they can entice the next generation into the beautiful world of the hand looming industry. Also in weaving it’s not just one technique like in embroidery, you can create a multitude of textures and designs.

Indian woman should embrace national dress
I don’t like outfits, which are exposing, revealing and short. I like Indian women, and women generally in the world, that wear saris! It can be a simple cotton sari and a woman will still look simply elegant and sexy. You have six metres of cloth to work with, so whether it’s designing a new saree or wearing one, it’s one of the best outfits a woman has.

Tradition is better when it has a modern twist
Originally I was working with cotton as the base material for my designs as many people have aversions to silk due to the insects that get killed in the silk purification process. Khadi is a great alternative as it holds well and is a heavy enough fabric to weave on. 
The only problem is that Khadi uses old designs that were small and not considered fashionable by the modern Indian woman. This is why people moved away from the weaving industry in the first place. I attempted to innovate these designs into floral and geometric shapes to give them a contemporary feel. I also work mainly with bright festive colours giving women a chance to wear Indian clothes while embracing modernity.

Interview by Gayatri Sahay