This woman is making Indian bridal fashion a part of international couture

Why Indian fabrics are not celebrated by the young and trendy is still an unsolved mystery, but the founder of Ekaya, Palak Shah has found a way to glamourise traditional textiles for an international audience. At a recently held exhibit titled ‘Cousu d’Or’ at The Bikaner House, Shah presented the creativity of 15 French couture designers who worked with different fabrics to create wedding and evening wear in western silhouettes.

The collaboration was done with Fédération Française de la Creation Couture Sur Mesure, and the couturiers worked with the brand’s signature brocades along with silks, cotton, georgettes, chiffons, tusser, organza, mashru silks and chikankari hand embroidery.

In a tête-à-tête with LIFESTYLE, Shah explained, “The federation approached us two years ago and for almost seven months, the conversation happened over mail and WhatsApp. It was only when I met the designers last November that I realised how proud a moment this was for India. The collection was created by designers who have worked with Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, and was launched during Paris haute couture week.”

Not that the affiliation with global luxury brand names made much of a difference, for the couturiers created magic with the fabrics that were couriered to them. Shah credits this to their unrestricted approach and creativity while designing them.

“Designer Pierre Charles Letz (president of the Federation) made a gown of the chikankari suit material, where he turned the neck of the suit into sleeves and the dupatta into a trail,” she narrated enthusiastically.

Another designer, Isabelle Beaumenay Joannet used a fabric where the warp and weft were made with zari metal giving it a high tensile strength, which meant that even folding the material would make it break.

“They pleated it with a moulding technique from France ily and seamlessly Indian textiles can fit into the western or any other market.” When asked why she thought western designers were able to better innovate, she credited it to their uninhibited approach. “We as Indians know what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and because of that we don’t tend to experiment,” adding, “I didn’t tell them what was the correct direction of the motifs or the right way up. I gave no instruction, they interpreted it on their own and that’s the beauty of it.” For those who missed the show, and converted it into a dress. Can you imagine how flowy metal is now?,” she shared.

Meanwhile, designer Guenaelle Debarnot sprayed Benarasi fabric, and played with the warp and weft to create tassels. Another used the very material in reverse. As Shah stated, “This was just to showcase that Indian fabric is so versatile. It’s neither our niche nor our market, but just a testament to how easily and seamlessly Indian textiles can fit into the western or any other market.” When asked why she thought western designers were able to better innovate, she credited it to their uninhibited approach. “We as Indians know what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and because of that we don’t tend to experiment,” adding, “I didn’t tell them what was the correct direction of the motifs or the right way up. I gave no instruction, they interpreted it on their own and that’s the beauty of it.” For those who missed the show,there is hope of being able to check the finesse of craftsmanship in the future, as the brand plans to showcase the pieces at its store.

Meanwhile, Shah continues her rallying cry to make Indian textile cool again, as she stated, “So many people run to Naeem Khan and Elie Saab – why not be India-proud? I think if we’re confident and gutsy, and really fight to make it a rage abroad, we will succeed. We’re just under confident that we might fail and that is why the Indian fabric is never celebrated on the international runways in the same way.

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