A few months ago, several yards of luxuriant Maheshwari silk, Kanchipuram silk, Gujarati patola, Bengali jamdani and Benarasi brocade were ornately packaged and sent to the headquarters of Roberto Cavalli and Salvatore Ferragamo in Italy, Hermès and Christian Louboutin in Paris and Jimmy Choo in London, among other luxury maisons. Each fabric has now been transformed into 21 iconic items from the brands — a creamy-gold Alberta Ferretti gown in glistening Kanchipuram silk, spiky Ferragamo and Louboutin heels covered in Benarasi brocade, a Hermès scarf in Kantha work, a Gucci patola and a Cavalli gown made from a bandhini sari.
The garments and accessories are part of Project Renaissance, an ongoing exhibition at Delhi’s luxury mall DLF Emporio. To put it together, Bandana Tewari, Vogue India’s fashion features director, travelled across the country for over six months in search of exquisite textiles which would form the foundation of the project. “I met weavers in Maheshwar in the interiors of Madhya Pradesh, I scouted south-Indian silks in Kanchipuram and gilded brocades in Benares,” she says. In Ahmedabad, she visited the Hutheesing haveli (frequented by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru) and chatted with its owner Umang Hutheesing, who shared tales about his private collection of antique fabrics and his devotion to the Gujarati patola.
Tewari made a PDF of her journey, sprucing it up with images and notes. And a week later, she shared it with Burberry’s Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey in Taipei. And the result is the iconic willowy Burberry trench coat complete with a cinching belt and high collar, made in mustard Maheshwari silk. Another fascinating product is the tapering Emilio Pucci gown in snow-white Lucknowi chikankari.
Each fabric, handpicked by Tewari along with the suggested design, was sent across to the brands’ headquarters. In the following months, the brands’ designers executed everything — the fit, fall, cut and drape. Don’t miss the short, snug dress falling in structured waves of Benarasi brocade from the house of Prabal Gurung — the Nepali-American designer was thrust into the spotlight in 2010 when he dressed up Michelle Obama in a black-and-white sleeveless number with brush-painted roses. Sharing space with Gurung’s playful evening number is Indian-American Bibhu Mohapatra’s multi-coloured Jacquard dress made of Bhuj mashru.
India continues to be a hotspot for international designers to source materials from and seek inspiration, says Tewari. A case in point is master coutourier Roberto Cavalli who is reported to have said that India’s rich fabric and beautiful women inspired him to open his flagship store in Delhi last year. His recent trip to India also served as inspiration for his Resort 2013 collection for Just Cavalli.
“The confluence between Indian and international design is de rigueur,” says DLF Emporio Senior Vice-President Dinaz Madhukar. The Hermès sari, launched in India in 2011, is one such example.
The items from the exhibition are not for sale. “With the awards season already underway,” says Tewari with a wink, “I wouldn’t be surprised if Hollywood and Bollywood glitterati request their stylists and designers to emulate these designs!”