— Veronique Poles
23RD March before the exhibit. Very often, I keep in mind a beautiful sentence from the film 'Forrest Gump' [played by Tom Hanks] — 'life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.'
On 23RD March, we went from one surprise to another right up to the beginning of the next day… what a lucky race!The first surprise came from the calendar; when Palak Shah, CEO, Ekaya had booked Bikaner House, she did not know at all that the Universe would be working in her favour… what a perfect coincidence and timing! German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived in India on 22ND March on a four-day visit… and it turns out that designer Ali Thompson is from Germany!! She had joined Federation Francaise de la creation couture sur mesure Paris, when Pierre Letz and Daniel Martin from the eponymous brand 'LetzMartin' got an opportunity for one of their gowns to be showcased at an exchange event organised by the city of Paris and the city of Berlin, promoting art and crafts.
Because of Ali's presence in India, being part of the project 'Cousu d'or, a private visit of the exhibit at Bikaner House was organised for German President, Mr Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife Elke Büdenbender. Discovering Ali's gown, designed for this Indo- French couture collaboration using Ekaya fabrics, delighted them and both of them heartily congratulated the German designer! It was a great honour and privilege for Pierre Letz, President, Federation Francaise de la creation couture sur mesure Paris, Palak Shah, Bharat Shah and of course Ali Thompson to share with The President of Germany and the First Lady, about this collaboration. A lifetime moment! Fashion has no borders! Cousu d'or —15 International designers, 5 countries, 4 generations of mastery in textile, 1 global collaboration! The German President and his wife loved the exhibition and its global potential so much that they called the exhibition to Berlin before year-end! What a moment of pride for all of us!
At the same time, the rest of the group was on the way to discover a surprise organised in collaboration with the Institut Francaise en Inde. We took auto rickshaws (the group's favorite mode of transportation in India!) in the direction of the prestigious fashion school NIFT Delhi and were welcomed by sixty students and their professors for a 90-minute session. The core of the session was to present the collaboration 'Cousu d'or' to the NIFT students and interact with them about the journey of this collaboration and the exhibition at Bikaner House. What a privilege for the couture designers to interact with the students of this vibrant country, India. It was an exciting session as students of today are fashion designers of tomorrow, and sharing our experience with them was a way of encouraging their creativity and give wings to their dreams at the same time emphasising that their path must support art and crafts, to blend the rich heritage and rich culture of India with the evolution of global fashion. We explained to the students how the designers with their know-how, in collaboration with various craftsmen of the French couture industry, gave a twist to the traditional handwoven fabrics. Each gown was described to them emphasising on the experimentations with Ekaya fabrics and on how the designers had explored, without restriction; following their inspiration and fearlessly giving wings to their dreams. The presentation was followed by questions engaging us in a stimulating global exchange. Following the discussion with students, we had a very interesting interaction with the professors around the traditional cup of Chai while discovering the infrastructure, the foundation programme, and all the course options; we also discussed about few synergies to be developed between France and India.
Well, all of this happened just in the first part of the day and the next surprise was to take the group to Ekaya at Defence Colony. From the first floor dedicated to the core of Ekaya business, the sari, we took the group to the second floor where they discovered a floor which opened less than one year ago: Thaan. To better answer the needs of their customers, Palak Shah, CEO Ekaya, put all her efforts in designing a new concept specially dedicated to fabrics. The designers started exploring with great pleasure the rich and colourful collection of handwoven fabrics, already dreaming about the next collaboration they could develop based on the vibrant colors and motifs.
An irresistible personal shopping was followed by an Indian lunch, well deserved, which gave us all an opportunity to be with Pierre and Ali who were back from their unbelievable experience with the Presidential couple of Germany. That was the perfect time to share our feelings on this first part of the day!! We had a lot on our plate during the second half: preview of the exhibition at Bikaner House orchestrated by Palak Shah and her team. Yes, life is like a box of chocolates…
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