Walls get a soft touch with pashmina

Srinagar-born designer Zubair Kirmani repurposing the shawls as wall hangings

February 21, 2022 04:04 am | Updated 04:04 am IST - SRINAGAR

Pashmina shawls. Representional image

Pashmina shawls. Representional image

For centuries, Kashmir's exquisite, intricately woven pashmina shawls have been expensive party wear or tucked away on the shelves of the elite as a part of rare collections. Now, Srinagar-born fashion designer Zubair Kirmani is adorning walls with eye-catching, ultra-fine pashmina shawls. Mr. Kirmani, who has already earned a name for himself by displaying Kashmir-influenced couture at premier fashion shows like Wills Lifestyle India and Lakme Fashion Week, is creating pashmina wall hangings with different embossing techniques, including meticulous threadwork and rare calligraphic art by the finest craftspeople in Srinagar.

"The idea was to bring the pashmina out of the closet. The expensive Kashmiri shawls were always limited to bright parties or the dark corners of closets. My attempt is to add to the utility of the fine fabric, which sees a chain of processes in its making. The way people buy costly paintings for walls, I intend to turn the pashmina into a new feature to decorate walls with a classy look," Mr. Kirmani told The Hindu.

Back in Kashmir after years spent in the world of fashion, Mr. Kirmani's Srinagar studio has wall-hangings of different sizes mounted on carved walnut frames. The designer owns the label Bounipun, the local name for Chinar leaves.

Reinventing his hallmark geometrical works influenced by the 'khatamband', a decorative pattern on woodwork used to design ceilings of houses and houseboats in the valley, Mr. Kirmani is also using a new geometrical technique to re-introduce the Kufic style of calligraphy that saw its advent in Iraq during the period of Hazarat Ali, one of Prophet Muhammad's sons-in-law, many centuries ago.

"This calligraphic work is challenging. In this artwork, Quranic verses are written without diacritics. There are no signs used under or above the Arabic letters, necessary for its right pronunciation. Kashmir's art has seen a lot of influence from Persia in the past. Recreating Kufic calligraphy on pashmina is a way to relook at the roots of our influence and also to generate a sense of awe among those who get to see it. I see this art form as merger of many features," Mr. Kirmani said.

He has used Kufic style of calligraphy to write scores of Quranic verses, including the Ayatul Kursi, one of the longest ayats or verses of the holy Quran, which is often recited by Muslims across the globe. “It’s believed that reciting the verses will ward off evil,” he said.

Mr. Kirmani is aiming at the growing the market for his work in India and abroad. "My recent trips to the United Arab Emirates have taken me to a new market. We need to contemporise the pashmina, even if it means changing its utility. I am sure Arabs, living in hotter conditions, would like to adorn their walls with pashmina artwork rather than buying them as shawls," he said.

To take care of Muslim sensibilities, the pashmina fabric is not washed under feet, as it is in the traditional process, or dyed and dried up on the ground. "We have ensured that it's handled carefully," Mr. Kirmani added.

"The high-speed Internet-driven market demands innovations and new creations. Kashmir, considered a heaven for artisans, has to brace up to this challenge and give the world something new," Mr. Kirmani said.

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