The French connection: Lucknow Chikankari and Benarsi Brocade adorn French wedding gowns
NEW DELHI: It was truly a labor of love– a love affairế between France and India –at the Cousu d’Or (Magical Weaving) exhibition in New Delhi recently. The exhibition, which showcased rich Benares brocades and exquisite Lakhnavi chikankari, was a collaborative effort of 14 French designers and Benarsi Silk label Ekaya. Together they have crafted an exclusive line of wedding Gowns featuring Benares brocades and chic Chikankari that drew accolades from visitors to the exhibition.
Apart from other high profile visitors, the German presidential couple made a private visit to the exhibition and said they were planning to have it over in Berlin as well soon.
Since 2013 the Federation Francaise de la Creation Couture Sur Mesure, Paris, has been celebrating the craftsmanship of weavers from various parts of the world. This year it chose to collaborate with Ekaya to showcase the rich brocades and delicate Chikankari from the state of Uttar Pradesh. Ekaya’s Palak Shah says, “The federation was totally won over by our daringly minimal and contemporary approach to traditional textiles. French luxury consultant, Veronique Poles, is both professionally and personally involved with the collection and was super excited with its success. It is Veronique who has orchestrated the collection merging the opulence of Benares brocades and classic Lakhnavi Chikankari for the collection. A total of 14 French designers have worked to evolve the Cousu d’Or collection which will also be showcase later in the year at the French Couture Week in July. “This is really a big moment for me,” she confides,” I just love the marriage of Indian textiles and craftwork with French designers. It is the final word in Fashion and femininity and the chikankari and brocades go down so well to create the perfect wedding collection,” says Veronique, a French woman who has now made Mumbai her permanent home after “falling in love with India—it a dream for anyone in fashion..the textiles, the colors, the craftwork. Just exquisite,” she reveals.
The color palette is neutral using delicate ivory and barely-there nudes using silk, organza, tusser, cotton, georgette and chiffon and hand-worked Lakhnavi Chikankari and Ekaya’s signature brocades. The result is ethereal and classic. Each of the 14 designers participating in the show has created unique pieces on the wedding theme using the same. Six designers have been roped in to create exclusive accessories—hats, veils, carnations and jewelry pieces to go with the dresses—all from the fabric. Ekaya has also experiment with metallic fabrics and geometric patterns to bring an urban glamour to the classic craftwork. One noticeable inclusion is the use of the Kadwa brocade technique with no loose threads and a reversible effect.
“Our aim was to create contemporary designs using traditional fabric. In order to do that we had to make some experiments with the fabric, its drape, volume and weight,” reveals Palak Shah, daughter of Bharat Shah from whom she has inherited the 70-year-old textile firm from her father. A business management graduate from London’s King’s College, Palak holds an MBA from Babson, Boston. The idea was to introduce Indian fabric to European market where it falls very cost effective. Pure silk costs are exorbitant abroad and Ekaya’s light-weight silk-cotton and cotton weaves have been appreciated at the capsule collection showcased in Paris in February. “I see myself as a bridge between the weavers and the designers. I now see myself working more with texture than weight for the fabric to be adopted in international designer collections,” she says.
“India has a rich craft heritage and the sophistication of India’s textiles has been the dream of all French couturiers,” says Pierre Letz, President of the Federation.
Claire Sarmadi, Martin Letz, Nico Thibault Francioni, Aure_lie Dillon and Fanny Liautard are just few of the high-profile French designers who showcased their collection at the exhibition.