VAISHALI SHADANGULE  (click here to know more about this blogger)

On the eve of her showing at Haute Couture Week in Paris astride iconic global labels like Chanel, Dior, Balenciaga, Fendi, Giorgio Armani Prive, Giambattista Valli, Shiaperelli, Jean Paul Gaultier and Elie Saab, Indian designer Vaishali Shadangule is perceptive of the invaluable opportunity and the responsibility.


Last night, she expressed her feelings via e-mail from Paris, ''India is a country that has contributed immensely to the world's design aesthetic, textiles and fibres yet it has remained the workshop of International brands for intricate precious work only. India has so much more to give and many global brands to churn out. We have at least three hundred different hand weaving techniques, precious raw materials and amazing hand embroideries skills. This is what needs to be showcased. My garments at Haute Couture Week will be handcrafted with unique weaves made out of precious khadi yarns and amazing hand embroideries; with stunning silhouettes it can really help  make a shift in perception. This is the reason I really want to leave a mark there and yet remain extremely loyal to our own heritage and culture.''


Her words brought to mind a recent interview which explains her philosophy and design aesthetic.

''I have always been inspired by the beauty and simplicity of Indian weaves and by the dedicated vision of its weavers. Since the early years of my life, I have seen these weaves worn by village women, for everyday activities. They are comfortable, sustainable and beautiful. Village life, where all the activities are dictated by the mood of nature, has always been my inspiration. Local weaves, designed by my sensibilities, are steeped in inspiration in Nature and its constant rebirth and mutation flow. You would be amazed to know how people have studied algorithms that can decipher the mood and state of mind of weavers while crafting a specific weave. This is why I love to go and sit with them when they begin working on a fabric: I feel each weave has some part of me in it, and that sets the feelings, that particular piece will have. My love for design and experimentation has done the rest — trying to give them a more global language, with huge success from the most critical audiences of catwalks around the world, particularly New York and Milan.


Sustainability, for me, is a way of living that connects us to the past and… to village life! Village women wear beautiful weaves for routine daily tasks because their are most comfortable. That is where I started and where I still belong. Yes, in this path of discovery, of innovative design, my draping skills have developed and grown with each adventure. Although, I admit, I have always been at the cutting edge of draping… it has always been part of my design aesthetic. I spend hours draping. All my garments are almost free of stitching. This allows my design to literally flow on the body of a woman, enhancing her freedom of movement and ease of wearing them. You would be surprised how my designs, despite their intricate sumptuous look, are much easier to wear, and to carry, than other garments. This is not all, though. While my ensembles are perfect for a red carpet soiree, you can also style it differently so it can be worn during the day. I offer a multi-faceted element in each piece I design. While our capes can be a statement piece, we also offer jackets that meet the daily needs of a working lady.  This is taken to the extreme with our bridal wear, where the  bridal ensemble can be worn as separates in daily wear. This takes care of creativity and wearability and also of sustainability.


Unlike the misconception, there were no stumbling blocks with weavers, ever. I have always shared a good relationship with them and found them to be cooperative and open minded. With many of them, I didn't even have a common language; nevertheless I was understood well because we speak the common language of weaving. Despite some of the weavers not understanding what I was asking for, have always been keen on experimenting and happy to get creative with the motifs, in some cases. While the demand is increasing, particularly overseas, my focus has been to increase my team with people who have the ability to understand and then translate my culture and mindset into design. As for weaving, I have increased the number of families dedicated to my collections. I continually add new weaves, and therefore different villages and states,with each collection — always keeping in mind to sustain the old ones.


I do believe a lot in sharing a common experience with the weaver. By sitting with them on the loom I can feel part of me in each weave. At the same time they are the depositary of ancient techniques, and when they really understand my design language they are able to innovate in the motifs themselves, while keeping the roots of the technique in protection. They just need to be guided. I believe that the depth of our culture and the intricacy of our textile crafts is India's wealth. In this endeavour of supporting traditional weaves, though, we must take into consideration that these craftsmen need to make a living too. By teaching them and making them connectable, they can skip intermediaries that retain almost ninety five per cent of the value of the weave. Their art and recognition should be enhanced, and at the same time, they should get their share of the value chain. As of now most of them don't even have the money to buy their own threads! Due to the way I work with them, they have managed to make a better living, proposing their weaves to other clients and have been recognised for their skill and art; many women have come back to the looms therefore getting empowered with dignity and financial independence. On my end, I make sure to strongly promote villages I work with, and to keep their weaves in my future collections, therefore sustaining hundreds of families.''



VAISHALI SHADANGULE Global silhouettes handcrafted in the rural interiors of India



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