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Beauty of Benares
Fashion designers seem to have rediscovered the timeless beauty of Benares brocades. Watch it swish on the ramps in the coming months
India's fashion weeks are around the corner and many designers are ready to take you on a journey to Benares, the city known for centuries for its fine silk weaves. There is a reason why the Muslim weavers of this holy city are known as karigars (artistes) and not julaha (weavers). Benares brocade is truly a piece of art because of the colours, the patterns and the precious metals used to create the weaves.
Benares has historically been a hub for culture and education. It is also a melting pot of various influences and that is why Benares has such a diverse range of brocades to suit every taste and every style.
With fashion's love of looking into the past, it is not surprising that Benares brocades are looking set to be a strong trend for the next season. Tarun Tahilani has a strong Benares touch in his Spring/Summer line which is currently in stores - he has used the cutwork and appliquê techniques of Benares.
The next edition of the Wills Indian Fashion Week (WIFW) starts on March 13, and Abraham and Thakore's collection, "Shaadi Redux", is being sponsored by the ministry of textiles. Benarasi silk brocades re-imagined by the designer dup are central to this collection. They have collaborated with Ekaya, specialists in Benarasi weaving for over 60 years, and give their signature clean, sophisticated touch to this opulent handloom.
Vineet Bahl and Nikasha Tawadey are also inspired by the fabrics of Benares. Vineet's "Awadh" collection for Fall/ Winter 2013/14 mixes the best of Benares textiles with Lucknowi chikankari, for a distinct vintage look. And at the Lakme Fashion Week, Masaba Gupta will show a collection with the vintage look called "Postcards from Benares".
Nikasha's Fall/Winter 2013 collection is called "Raat ki Rani" and has a 1920s-meets-the-1970 s feel. Look out for sharara jumpsuits and some sensuous back- baring cholis. "Benares is about more than fabrics, it is about a sprit a tradition of luxury, " she says. She is using gold tissue to add old world charm to her collection and has also developed a herringbone weave for her collection. "What is more luxurious than a fabric being woven just for you, " says David Abraham. There is a quiet but very decadent feel to the brocades that fashion is celebrating right now. Benares fits the trend very well because it combines luxurious as well as understated about its brocades.
Fashion's move to Benares indicates that the Indian consumer is evolving.
The focus on Benares is also a part of an international trend. There is a lot of Byzantine influence in fashion right now and brocade is a natural part of this look. While there is no question that London, Milan, Paris and New York remain the world's fashion capitals, India presence is undeniable too. Whether it is Dries Von Noten's use of Indian ikat, Jean Paul Gaultier's reference to the colours of Rajasthan's gypsy outfits - India remains a constant inspiration for international designers. Brocade played a central role in Chanel's pre-fall collection 2011/12, "Paris Bombay", presented just over a year ago. It may sound strange but perhaps this French fashion house reminded our design fraternity of the beauty of the brocade and helped trigger this focus on Benares.
So, check out what is happening on the ramps, but also look into your mother's wardrobe. Admire those exquisite Benares handlooms that are like a work of art. Old really is gold.
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