Last Sunday (25th January) the Fabric of India team went to the Aashni + Co Wedding Show, held at The Dorchester, London. It showcased the work of some of India’s leading designers including two already selected for our forthcoming exhibition. It was the first time that any of us had been to such an event and it turned out to be a great way of seeing the work by a diverse set of designers in one space and for meeting some interesting people.
The entrance was impressively decorated in gold tones with an outfit from each of the designers. This led to a room full of young glamorous Indian women and their mothers, aunts, sisters and friends, all looking for the perfect wedding outfit. The designer’s stalls were full of bright colours, printed and patterned fabrics, but above all there was a profuse amount of gold embroidery.
The Indian wedding outfit has become one of the primary means of popularising traditional textile techniques and fine fabrics. Many of the designers used zardosi, gota work, sequins and beading on silk, velvet and lace to create an opulent aesthetic evoking the grandeur of the Maharajahs. Here’s a quick guide to what these techniques are:
Zardosi: gold-thread embroidery, using metallic elements and thread, sometimes includes mirrors, or precious/semi-precious stones.
Gota: a metallic ribbon in which flattened gold or silver wire forms the weft, and silk or cotton forms the warp.
Of the designers attending the event, Sabysachi Mukherjee is one of the most sought after for wedding attire and he is also particularly vocal about preserving India’s textile heritage: I had spent a day with him in his workshops in Kolkata in March 2014 where I was able to understand more about his passion for textiles and see where some of the processes for his outfits take place. It was lovely to see him in London again and I was reminded of the first time I met him, many years ago when he came to the V&A to look through the archives. He told me that it was seeing the collections in the museum that inspired him to explore the history of Indian textiles through his own designs. Here are some details from his collections which I saw during my visit to his studios last March.
Interviewing the designer has been an important element of the research for this exhibition. However, this Wedding Show gave me a valuable opportunity to speak to some of Sabyasachi’s potential customers. His stall was extremely popular with the British Asian crowd and there was rarely a moment when it wasn’t filled with brides marvelling at his elegant gowns and the combination of subtle colours and incredible craftsmanship.
So what was it about his designs that appealed to the many women who tried on his outfits?
Nina Hunjan loved the craftsmanship and the understated colours. Not wanting the bright reds, pinks and oranges of the typical Indian wedding aesthetic, these pale hues and fitted silhouette suited her perfectly. Her mother feared that it might be a little too understated . In our email exchange afterwards she said ‘The quality and detailing of his work is just beautiful and stands out among the other designers, it’s the difference between a paper rose and a real one!’
Gold floral embellishments on a simple cream blouse, teamed with a pale sari, appealed to this young woman. She liked the blouse first and wanted a light weight sari to go with it. This sari has gold gota work on khadi fabric.
We met many interesting people that day and amongst them was the talented Liam, who styled the women trying on gowns and saris with great skill and ease of manner.
We left the Wedding show somewhat overwhelmed by the range of work we had seen, the number of people attending and the many individuals we had met.
For the The Fabric of India exhibition we are excited to be showing a specially designed male and female wedding ensemble by Sabyasachi Mukherjee.