Ashdeen Lilaowala brings his peonies to Amethyst

Kavya Ramachandran in a Parsi gara jacket   | Photo Credit: @poo.stories

The peonies are lovely this year. They are scattered on yards of green, blue and yellow — of organza, georgette and crepe. The motif is central to Ashdeen Lilaowala’s Paradise Crafted, the latest collection of Parsi gara saris, jackets and skirts. As is the lotus, and the designer’s signatures such as the crane and the butterfly. But on a quick morning call, he waxes eloquent about the peonies. “We have worked the blossom in great detail,” he says. “The shading [with multiple colours], the rendering, it’s very realistic. The petals are curled, you can see the foreground and the background, making it very dynamic.”

For close to two decades, Lilaowala has been researching the legacy of the Parsis’ intricate hand embroidery. He’s brought back key motifs — like the quirkily-named Cheena Cheeni (Chinese man and woman) — and rooted the storied craft in a contemporary vocabulary (iterations of slim pants, jackets, kaftans and tops are now trousseau essentials). And now, with every collection, he hones these connections.

Ashdeen Lilaowala, and examples of the embroidery

Ashdeen Lilaowala, and examples of the embroidery   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

“We are constantly trying to find new links,” shares the designer, who is simultaneously working on what he hopes will be a seminal book on Parsi gara. “We’ve re-looked at our motifs... we have a butterfly sari, where we’ve taken the insects and blown them up. But, at the same time, the rendering is so realistic that it almost looks 3D,” he shares. For this collection, he’s worked with new fabrics, too, including lace, georgette satin and raw silk.

With its debut in Chennai, at a pop-up at Amethyst, the collection will go up on their website soon, and will go on the road to Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Baroda in November and December. In the meantime, Instagram has Chennai locals Kavya Ramachandran, co-founder of Sukha Education Foundation, and dancer Anita Ratnam captured at Egmore Museum and Napier Bridge, in the drapes. “With every city we visit, we connect with local photographers and models. Our only brief is to put our sari in their city’s context. We also get a few of our clients to wear the saris, too.”

Kavya Ramachandran at Napier Bridge

Kavya Ramachandran at Napier Bridge   | Photo Credit: @poo.stories

Lilaowala has expanded on the ‘paradise’ theme by incorporating a “Shangrila-esque feel” through embroidery featuring mountains, waterfalls and angels. But what inspired the paradise interpretations? “Post pandemic, the morale is low. There are a lot of mixed emotions. So, while we may not be in a Utopic situation, we can lighten things up, bring in a bit of joy. Like when you wear a sari from this line.”

Check out Paradise Crafted — in rich, saturated colours such as alphonso yellow, tangerine, Irish purple, Arabian green, and the like — at Amethyst, Whites Road. Today and tomorrow. Saris from ₹1,35,000 onwards. Details:

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 7:33:36 PM |

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