Gaurang Shah is narrating the legacy of Jamdani weaving from different parts of India. His latest collection, Interlace, celebrates the journey of discovering the soul of Jamdani. We talk to the self-taught weaver about his travel diaries, inspirations and creative process. By Priyanka Chakrabarti
Do you remember your first holiday?
The first holiday was to Bangkok in 2000.
How was it growing up in Hyderabad? And, how has Hyderabad shaped you as a designer?
Hyderabad is a traditionally rich, cosmopolitan city, and had all the right avenues to grow as a child, student and as a professional. My aspiration to become a textile and a fashion designer took shape in this city. It all began as a curious 8-year-old boy, enamoured by India textiles, sarees attracting women shoppers during my visits to my father’s saree and matching blouse store after school hours. I grew up in an ecosystem, which helped me weave my dreams. The metropolitan gave me tremendous backing and encouraged my creative sensibilities.
Does travelling inspire you as a designer?
It does. It gives me new inspiration as I get to meet new weavers, cultural locales, heritage buildings, architectural marvels, and above all, knowing in close quarters what woman of the different region look out for when they go out to buy their favourite fashion piece.
How would you define the core elements of your current Jamdani line? What story are you narrating this time?
The legacy of Indian Jamdani technique impressed me. I love its traditional forms and experimental exploration for centuries. I realised, it is the most versatile weaving technique; it breathes innovation and allows me to break my creative boundaries.
Jamdani let me weave any pattern, interlace colour, textures, yarns and much more. I love the spirit surrounding the art and its masters.
In the initial days, Jamdani’s technique potential was not used to its full extent. The ancient mastery was intricate, but it got lost over the generations. It was boring and needed change to bring back the intricacy, and contemporary appeal — both in approach and weaving possibilities.
Through my recent show Interlace, I am narrating the legacy of Jamdani weaving from different parts of India. It also showcases the adaptability of our weavers, their intent to be modern, redesign the looms and willingness to accept new design challenges from a textile designer like me.
My constant pursuit is to move away from the conventional look of handlooms to make it contemporary, using the ancient Indian technique, and present them with different fusion, texture and colour pallet.
What was the last vacation you took that truly inspired you to create a brand-new line?
Every vacation is rejuvenating. Every morning, a new aspiration for me. Travelling to a destination helps me add a few elements in my creative menu. So, it could be a colour, texture, architecture or a tradition that has to connect to Indian textile heritage.
You work with artisans from many states across India. Which state has elevated your creative process and why?
Every state and its artisans have a unique character and appeal. What elevates my creative process is the ability of the Indian artisans to translate my inventive designs and its intricacies to reality. For instance, for creating my line NEEL, I had to collaborate with artisans from different cities to gain indigo magnificence. I prepared a shade card — light, medium and dark tones — and tapped specialist artisans from different cities of India, in creating specific hues.
While I used threads dyed in indigo for chikankari embroidery, kalamkari patterns had lighter and darker tones of the pigment. In this line, Ajrakh block prints carried an indigo hue, and bird motifs on the border of a creamy-white sari add a touch of indigo.
I work with artisans from the South, East, and West of India. All of them have given wings to my dreams.
What was your most memorable holiday?
Australia. I loved driving along the coastline and across cities with my family.
If you could pack only five things for a vacation, what would they be?
I am a minimalist. I like to relax when I go on a vacation. However, my smartphone and a sling travel bag is a must.
Do you believe in the concept of slow travel?
I believe in travel that gives you joy and time to explore everything around.
What’s your take on conscious travelling? How would you contribute to the trend of green-travelling?
My travel itinerary is well-thought. As an eco-textile designer, I practice ‘green’ wherever I go. To begin with, I stay in eco-friendly accommodations, wherever possible.
For shopping, I head to local-made-product streets. To please gastro indulgences, I like exploring local restaurants that only use local ingredients.
Lastly, do you think solo travelling is more enriching than travelling with a group of people?
For business, I travel solo. For vacation, I love travelling with my family, and it is enriching.