The miniature loom Vaishali Shadangule gifted me, symbolic of her single-minded focus, occupies pride of place in my study. The revivalist designer's focus of transforming near-extinct weaves into globally- relevant sustainable textiles has organically increased its reach and her hands-on approach to keep it alive is visible in past efforts to pick a rural weaver cluster each season, to live and work with them, resulting in modern handcrafted collections. ''I love to go and sit with weavers when they begin working on a fabric: I feel each weave has some part of me in it, and that sets the mood of that particular piece. My love for design and experimentation has done the rest — I am always trying to give them a more global language.''
At Paris Haute Couture Week, the showing held at the gardens of the Lycée Victor Duruy in Paris' seventh arrondissement, condensed the label's past and present with globally relevant dramatic silhouettes inspired by the lines and curves of corals and tree barks. The show opened to the melodious tunes of a violin player music — the perfect ambience for the looks handcrafted and handwoven with Merino wool woven in Maheshwar, Khun from Karnataka and indigenous weaves of West Bengal. The focus was on textile craft and steered clear of embroidery and sequins. What placed it in the realm of wearable art was the couturier's signature craft techniques of cording, engineered deconstruction and textures, in a palette of white, blacks and colours reminiscent of nature. The highlight was the contemporary bride in a lightweight fluid layered dress.
Vaishali Shadangule has been showcasing at New York Fashion Week since 2015 and today she has realised her dream of showcasing at Paris Haute Couture Week. Yet, she remains firmly rooted in her culture and heritage. ''I believe the depth of our culture and the intricacy of our textile crafts is India's wealth. I strongly feel that the humble craftspeople must get their share of the value chain; I always promote the rural clusters I work with and use their weaves for future collections, therefore sustaining hundreds of families. It makes me really proud to showcase their ancient weaves and textile craft on a global platform,'' she expresses.
— JASMEEN DUGAL