Traditional Parsi embroidery finds contemporary expression with fresh motifs and colours while retaining its multicultural roots in the hands of textile designer Ashdeen Z. Lilaowala
For his most recent collection Vintage Tales, textile designer Ashdeen Z. Lilaowala has taken inspiration from old Parsi photographs. One of the standout saris in the collection borrows its motifs from a gara sari hand-embroidered by Lilaowala’s grandmother and now worn by his mother. “I’ve changed the flow of the roses and birds for the design," Lilaowala says, with a laugh. “Otherwise, my mother might kill me."
The Delhi-based Lilaowala grew up surrounded by Parsi textiles and developed an early passion for design. As a textile design student at National Institute of Design (NID), he undertook a project on the kusti (sacred thread won by Parsis) in collaboration with the Unesco Parzor Foundation, which preserves Zoroastrian cultural heritage, in Delhi. At the same time, he also participated in a project on the development of gara embroidery. “I travelled to China, Iran, and across India, documenting collections. We also did workshops across India to make people aware of the embroidery," he recalls.
After graduation, Lilaowala started an embroidery unit, and making gara saris for friends led him to launch his eponymous label in 2012. “When I started the label, I wanted to create something which wouldn’t just be like copying an old gara," he says. “There had to be some innovation, be it changing the colours, form or fabric." The designer’s signature saris are distinctively Parsi in craftsmanship, but the motifs are reinterpreted through placement and proportion. While many designers have dabbled in gara, the craft is the bedrock of Lilaowala’s aesthetics. With a following that extends beyond the Parsi community, Lilaowala has expanded into accessories and bridalwear and collaborated with labels like Ekaya. In 2018, he launched his maiden flagship outlet in Delhi. Sitting in the store, Lilaowala spoke to Lounge on the history and significance of gara, modern interpretations and breaking myths. Edited excepts:....Read more
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