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Threads of tradition

With fine embroidery on gossamer fabric, Kashmir Loom has promoted the textile traditions of the State since 2000

Samina Zaidi grew up in Kashmir, amid its soothing lakes, looming mountains and scenic vales, and surrounded by its rich textile tradition.

Despite the conflict, she’s managed to nurture her deep love for everything Kashmiri. Little wonder then that she continues to work with its craftspersons, taking their skills to the world through Kashmir Loom.

The company, founded nearly 16 years ago by Jenny Housego, an English textile historian and former member of the Textile Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, with her Kashmiri partners — brothers Hamid, Zahid, and Asaf Ali — and their family in Srinagar, has made a name for itself across the globe for the way it celebrates fine weaving and embroidery.

Now, it comes to Chennai from August 8 to 10 as part of Nayaab, presented by Rupa Sood and Sharan Apparao. Kashmir Loom will bring its entire range — cashmere stoles, shawls and garments with light and heavy embroidery, and fine wool and silk and cotton creations, ranging from Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 2 lakh.

Samina, director, marketing, who works with Asaf and also gives design inputs, says the brand has a discerning clientele across the globe, but what’s most important for them is that they “support the craft of Kashmir by working closely with weavers whose skills have been perfected over generations”.

And so, while the brand does follow colour trends to a certain degree, it mostly veers towards classic patterns and creates designs that last beyond fashion seasons.

“We do contemporary styles but using classic techniques. Our embroidery remains what has been practised for generations; we believe craftspersons know better than us,” says Samina. The design house primarily deals with kaani shawls, and chain stitch and hook work, a finer version of the popular crewel. “We also do buttas, Mughal patterns and full embroidery,” she adds.

Where Kashmir Loom has stepped in is to help improve overall quality by monitoring and mentoring craftspersons and creating pride in the intricate stitches.

There are no shortcuts; everything is done the way it originally was. “Our return rate is negligible. For instance, if we take up an order from abroad for 300 pieces, hardly two might be returned. That’s the kind of quality we work towards.”

“Sometimes, due to various factors, what takes six months to create might take eight months. Irrespective of the environment, we ensure our weavers are given work.”

As a result, the next generation is open to the idea of continuing the family tradition, unlike in many places where craftspersons are fighting a losing battle.

Among the collection that comes to Chennai is Kashmir Loom’s Dorokha shawl, with one side in a metallic shade.

“It’s multi-purpose and lends a fine sheen. You don’t even need jewellery. You can wear it over a pair of jeans, a black dress… it’s one of my favourites too,” she says.

What does Kashmiri embroidery mean to Samina?

“Oh, everything. I wear it all the time. When I drape a kaani shawl or wear something created there, I feel closer to home.”

(Nayaab is on from August 8 to 10 at the Crowne Plaza, between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.)

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 3:19:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Threads-of-tradition/article14550869.ece

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