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— Veronique Poles

The art of couture is fascinating to discover — visiting 'un- atelier' workshops allowed us to perceive the relationship between a 'couturier' and the weaves, and to observe the skill set involved in the dressmaking process.


Behind the breathtaking gowns in the exhibition 'Cousu d'or at Bikaner House, there are fourteen unique stories of couturiers, all highly skilled, all challenging themselves to use the luxury handwoven fabrics of India. When Palak Shah, CEO, Ekaya sent a selection of fabrics for 'Cousu d' to the Fédération Française de la création Couture sur mesure Paris, these designers didn't know about the wide variety of styles and techniques they would receive!! Discovering the luxurious ivory fabrics for the project, the designers selected the weaves according to their design sensibility… selecting fabric they wanted to experiment with from among a selection of brocades, silks, georgettes, chiffons, tusser, organza, mashru silks and chikankari hand embroidery.


The reaction was unanimous — they were quite impressed and inspired by the selection and fell in love with all the fabrics. What they didn't know at that time was that their love for Ekaya fabrics would take them to India, where the first highlight of their journey would be 'Cousu d'or, followed by a second highlight in Uttar Pradesh, a region in India with its own textiles, designs, patterns, motifs and weaving techniques! Yes, happiness was at its peak when we all flew to one of the seven holy cities of the country, otherwise known as Benares, Banaras or Varanasi, the religious capital of India and the hub of traditional textiles since ancient times!


In Varanasi, Palak Shah's family welcomed us with a traditional custom, applying tilak on our foreheads and garlanding us, which made us feel honoured. For more than seventy years, three generations of the textile family business has contributed to the sustainability of a variety of indigenous textile forms, styles and techniques, in particular weaving. Hence, welcoming members of the Fédération Française de la création Couture sur mesure Paris in Varanasi was a moment of pride as they opened the doors of their workshops to couture designers for an exclusive memorable visit!


The three-day stay in Varanasi offered a mystifying experience, combined with interactive sessions at Ekaya workshops, discovering and understanding the handcrafted journey of luxury fabrics. The first day was marked by a visit to the famous Buddhist religious site Sarnath, followed by a delicious dinner in a restaurant facing The Ganges. As the hotel was located on the banks of Assi Ghat, facing the holy Ganges, the designers enjoyed whatever the living city of Lord Shiva could offer visitors: from watching the incredible lamp ceremony on the banks of the mighty river, Ganga Aarti, to attending yoga lessons in the beautiful mornings, to the boat rides at sunrise, to walks on the banks of the ancient ghats discovering pilgrims' activities and to encountering the holy men, the Sadhus; they were thrilled to experience so much about the spirit of this city known as Kashi i.e. City of Life. On the last day, those who could get up early, experienced a walk in the serpentine alleys of the city for a memorable Darshan at Shiva Temple!


After this spiritual experience, Palak Shah and her father took the group for a two-day immersion in the fabulous world of craftsmen where colours, fabrics, motifs and more wowed the designers. Entering this world of creation, based on the legacy of rich traditional techniques passed from one generation to another, was suddenly resonating with their own universe of creation, where hands are experimental, where the temporal dimension give to each new piece developed a specific story, a unique spirit, an endearing value. The designers were privileged to visit these workshops and to experience the values of Indian culture and civilisation, in particular when enjoying traditional homemade Indian cuisine at Palak Shah's house and discussing about so many points of curiosity. The most fascinating part of this customised journey was a visit to one of Ekaya's handloom workshops: in a remote area, they discovered the pit looms where the Banarasi sarees are hand woven and got an insight about all preparations before the weaving process: from the initial point of design making, to warp loading, to punch cards loading…they witnessed the complex process, carried out manually, involved in weaving a saree and better understood and appreciated the value of luxurious handmade creations. The inventiveness and the sophistication involved in some sarees, requires up to a few months of weaving, making these pieces works of art! Many of these artisanal techniques have been preserved by Ekaya and used by them to manufacture rich collections! The designers visited all the workshops, each of them specialising in a distinct method to impress patterns on cloth; unlike any other, hand block printing caught their attention, and they would have surely loved to experiment with this technique. Then it was the stencil printing and the screen printing. The visit ended with a quick visit to the section of fabric embellishments where handmade embroideries were processed.


It was an experience that was very valuable for each designer to understand the diversity of crafts behind the beautiful Ekaya collection they had all fallen in love with. Undoubtedly this International collaboration was a pragmatic experience to open doors and develop more opportunities to support crafts from each side. It was also a fantastic journey with beautiful acquaintances who believe in expressing their individuality with art and crafts! On this optimistic note, we closed the chapter of ‘Cousu d' or in India, and are so grateful to Palak Shah, her family and her team for the magical opportunity, for their generosity and for their kindness in sharing with us so much about their passion. We all knew that the journey was not over… and more surprises would come soon with the collective dream to take 'Cousu d'or to new destinations in the world and to spread a lot about couture creations and the luxury fabrics of India.

It was a great experience submerging ourselves in the local culture!
The three-day stay in Varanasi offered a mystifying experience!
We enjoyed homemade Indian cuisine at Palak Shah's house and discussing about so many points of curiosity!
Encountering the holy men, the Sadhus
The incredible lamp ceremony on the banks of the mighty river, Ganga Aarti
Our visit to one of Ekaya's handloom workshops
Our visit to one of Ekaya's handloom workshops
We all knew that the journey was not over…
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2018-04-07 14:22:15 WHEN COUSU D'OR WOWED INDIA