Abraham & Thakore collaborates with the Ministry of Textiles to put out a contemporary bridal line using Banarasi brocade at the upcoming WIFW

For as long as one remembers, Banarasi silk and brocade were what constituted the bridal trousseau. Later dry-cleaned and carefully wrapped in sheets of butter paper, in naphthalene-scented shelves in the almirah, they rested, awaiting the day they’d see another glittering occasion (more often than not, another’s betrothal); Banarasi silk lived from wedding to wedding. The slowly shifting trend towards more “fancy”, low-maintenance, lightweight designer saris slowly eroded what was Banarasi silks’ core market. In what could be a good showcase for a more modern application of Banarasi brocade, Abraham & Thakore will present ‘Shaadi Redux’ at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in New Delhi on March 15. Sponsored by the Development Commissioner – Handloom, Ministry of Textiles, the show, according to David Abraham of Abraham & Thakore, takes a “fresh look at Banarasi brocade”. “We’re projecting it as a sort of modern, bridal collection. Specifically Indian, of course.”

Only, Abraham & Thakore has never done bridal. Over the years, the label headed by David Abraham, Rakesh Thakore and Kevin Nigli has become known for evolving a no-fuss aesthetic that draws from deceptively simple hand weaves and practical, functional silhouettes. Even in Indian wear, the idea has been to find a contemporary idiom, like in the sari-shirt pairing in their Fall/ Winter 2012-13 line.

A bridal line, therefore, is news — even for the label. “We don’t do bridal — at all. It’s very, very far from what we generally do,” laughs Abraham. “In the first place it’s a challenge, which we welcome. Also, I’m hoping it will articulate a different design point of view, which is ours — about how you can dress for an occasion like this, because I think there’s the traditional route, there’s this really blingy route. This is rich — it will have a lot of gold and zari — but in a sort of minimalist way, something close to our sensibility.”

Fabric development started in November. “The fabrics have been specially woven — for each garment really,” he adds. Silhouette-wise, it will be “slightly modern, keeping in mind the A&T style.” Read, long skirts, trousers, a sari or two, “but in a sort of cleaner style maybe, in a slightly more modernist way.”

To what extent will the collection to be presented on the ramp coming Friday fit into the label’s larger Fall/ Winter 2013-14 collection? “It’ll be an extension of it,” Abraham explains. “We will have pieces from the ready-to-wear collection, which is non-occasion. We will have concepts that are also linked to it (the ramp collection) in terms of motifs and patterns.”

The fabrics for the collection have been specially woven by Banaras-based Ekaya, which only a few months ago opened a store in Defence Colony in the Capital.

Bharat Shah of Ekaya says, “We’ve mostly been making traditional fabric. With the help of Abraham & Thakore we’ve started some geometrical patterns and innovative ideas we’ve never thought of. With this collaboration we have developed designs that, we hope, the modern woman and even the export market will appreciate and accept. So this could be a new gateway opening for the whole industry of Banaras, not just Ekaya”

He explains how Banarasi brocade, traditionally a soft fabric, has been made stiffer to support the silhouette, with the motifs and colour palette too differing from those found on traditional handlooms.

Internationally, brocade has found important endorsement in recent seasons — Fall/ Winter 2013-14 saw that coming from labels like Stella McCartney, Balmain, Osman and Jonathan Saunders. Banarasi brocades and saris, on the other hand, scored an important victory when weaver associations in U.P. managed to get GI rights for their product in 2009.

“Whatever Abraham & Thakore is doing, that’s not just for the label; it’s for the entire industry. The silhouette might be the label’s only. But now that they’ve created the weaves, all around the world whoever wants to develop weaves knows they can get it developed in Banaras. So this is opening new doors.”

The Fall/ Winter 2013-14 edition of the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week kicks off at Pragati Maidan in the Capital on Wednesday, March 13. The five-day B2B event will see 128 designers (clothing and accessories) participating and 32 shows. The grand finale, on March 17, will be by Manish Arora.