By Puja Gupta
July 29, 2020 (IANSlife) Chapter six of Bharata Muni’s ancient scripture 'Natya Shashtra’ talks about 'Navarasa,’ the embodiment of nine human emotions through the performing arts. It is these emotions that express different phases in a woman’s life. Focusing on this concept, Shanti Banaras – a pioneer in Banarasi weaves – has launched a collection of master-weaves titled ‘Navrasa: Threads of Fantasy’.
Amrit Shah, Creative Director of Shanti Banaras, tells IANSlife that the idea has been formulating for months and has taken them over a year to launch, “It is our sweet attempt to see our Banarasi in every woman’s closet”. Read Excerpts:
The idea and concept behind this collection is quite unique?
Shah: ‘Navarasa’ is a celebration of nine emotions that express different phases in a woman's life. All emotions combined formulate womanhood. With this collection we have focused on every emotion with a unique weaving technique from Benaras and enhanced it with an expressive concept. The weaving techniques chosen for each emotion is very specific and carefully administered with the aim to amplify the emotion when worn.
Furthermore, we researched on concepts that bore a similarity to these emotions and which strongly resembled a woman’s persona. For example, we used the 'Jamdani' technique and worked on a free-hand weaving concept to bring out wonderment, our 'Raudra Rasa' brings out bold horizontal and vertical designs woven in a brocade technique depict anger.
How do you merge the weaving tradition of Banaras with the concept?
Shah: We drew from concepts that have a surreal and unique feature when it comes to the saree. When we zeroed in on concept which is rich and would enhance the features of a saree, we weaved them in. These concepts vary from optical illusions to old scriptures and mythological elements. The reimagining of these motifs proved to be a task. Our ideas resonate with the customer.
How are you supporting weavers through this campaign?
Shah: Every attempt and marketing effort at the moment is to support our weavers who have been relentlessly supporting and working with us over the years. We are trying to push their craftsmanship in an effort to showcase their art and support them in these turbulent times. Artisans with various skill sets have contributed to this collection.
What do you think is the future of the textile industry and craftsmanship post this pandemic?
Shah: Honestly, speaking from the ground level, there is nothing worse that our industry has ever been hit with and at such a monumental scale. There seems to be no direction or even some sort of consolation as to when things will be alright. These are testing times for humanity, staying together and supporting each other is what may lead to the wheels turning again. Fashion is going to be selective and restricted affecting our production and refining it. The clients needs may be restricted for a long time, we shall have to wait and sustain till that time.
These are times to prepare and reflect, and I believe we shall still look back at all having found the silver lining.
Skilled-based work has been on the back-burner, do you think it is time for them to shine?
Shah: The weavers of India have been struggling since the past few decades but this has been a real test. Currently, the model has been on only basic sustenance -- where the wages did not provide the luxuries of growth but a basic motivation to survive. Again, at my level, we have seen that the Benaras community has been supporting weavers with what they can and helping them through these tough times. Yes, it may take a long time to cover the losses that every weaver may have suffered, but weaving is a source of livelihood here, and we are trying to maintain it. Normally, we would weave a saree in 15 days we have pushed it to two months in order to sustain yet slow our production.
What do you think is going to be a major shift in the India handloom sector?
Shah: There always will be those aspire for expensive saree but will now opt for much cheaper option; but for women who prefer to own a handloom they may buy less but shall always go for the hand woven one. I believe these times will bring harder techniques back into fashion, efforts in planning and making a saree will increased but the industry shall be able to retain a majority of its artisans. If they are able to sustain in these times even with minimum production and wages. There might be a diversion and change in our product portfolio where we may focus our handlooms on various furnishing products and interior products.
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Puja Gupta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo editing and formatting by N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe