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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

New-Age Banarasi: Ekaya Continues to Problem The Standing Quo By means of Its Collaborations

Textual content by Mallika Chandra. Pictures by Nishanth Radhakrishnan. Artwork Route by Mallika Chandra and Asad Sheikh. Styling by Asad Sheikh and Sarah Rajkotwala. Fashions: Noreen Parinaaz and Vee at Feat. Artists.

Digitally printed silk skirt, corset shirt in crimson satin, printed organza dupatta, all from Ekaya Banaras; silver floral earring from Amrapali; shirt, stylist’s personal.

Palak Shah will not be your typical CEO of a typical Banarasi model. And the key to her success lies as a lot in asking the best questions because it does within the solutions. “How would Kim Kardashian put on a sari?” she had as soon as requested her long-time collaborator Nikhil Dudani of Feat. Artists. It was whereas conceptualising Ekaya Banaras’ marketing campaign for his or her newest assortment of saris and lehengas, Ambush, a contemporary interpretation of the Banarasi handloom speciality Shikargah, which is recognized by its searching scenes and wildlife-inspired motifs. Nothing in regards to the marketing campaign is standard. Reasonably than in a jungle or the outside, the scene is about in glossy marble interiors, retaining this influential entrepreneur and her intercourse attraction in thoughts. Flash pictures highlights ensembles that includes a zebra-striped peekaboo shirt with criss-crossing strappy accents in a single occasion and sizzling pink tights which are paired with a body-shaping slit sari in the identical color, in one other. Presenting such novel pairings is precisely what exemplifies the form of work Shah and Dudani intend to create every time they work collectively.

Whether or not it’s providing Banarasi brocade in Western silhouettes like pantsuits and thigh-high slit skirts, or anticipating a requirement for promoting luxurious woven material by the metre underneath the idea of Thaan, Shah has led the cultural dialogue of how conventional textiles may be featured in up to date wardrobes, for over a decade now, constructing on her household’s 120-year-old legacy of working with Banarasi crafts.

Her Instagram web page serves as, one may argue, one of many model’s finest endorsements. Shah’s love for saris is clear as she posts selfies carrying completely different drapes with equal ease at weddings, holidays and in her residence. “You need to current the product in a method that permits shoppers to view the complete breadth of temper, event and styling it may well cater to,” she tells us. With every state of affairs, she makes the case for carrying Indian textiles anyplace, in a large number of how. She isn’t afraid to make daring statements, be it together with her unconventional shirt pairings or private observations. “Thaan Pink > Valentino Pink?” she asks in a single caption.

1. Handwoven blue-grey silk sari, from Ekaya Banaras; silver ear cuff and silver ring, each from Amrapali. 2. Handwoven striped lilac brocade coat, from Ekaya Banaras; silver floral earring, from Amrapali; blue corset, stylist’s personal. 3. Handwoven blue-grey silk sari, from Ekaya Banaras; silver ear cuff, from Amrapali. 4. Handwoven striped lilac brocade coat, from Ekaya Banaras; skirt, corset and leggings, stylist’s personal.

Shah’s progressive briefs have attracted lasting partnerships with like-minded creatives like Dudani, who’re challenged by the chance to reimagine Banarasi textiles. For Dudani, creating extensively researched appears and distinctive drapes with Ekaya’s handwoven brocades through the years is akin to “creating sculptures”. Actually, these experiments have led to memorable campaigns which have offered the sari in shocking websites — just like the cricket pitch, as was the case with Ekaya’s assortment of saris designed in collaboration with Masaba Gupta in 2019 — and types, just like the hood drape that he created for Ekaya’s Sakura marketing campaign.

Admittedly, Dudani’s favorite marketing campaign was for the model’s first ready-to-wear line, Kashi within the Clouds. “For that shoot in 2020, my power was targeted into making it as completely different and memorable as doable.”

Kashi within the Clouds, Ekaya Banaras’ Spring/Summer season Prepared-to-Put on 2020 assortment, shot by Rid Burman.

On a foggy morning in Varanasi, two short-haired girls had been seen placing a relaxed pose in entrance of peeling partitions, rusty bridges and painted brick towers. They had been carrying impeccably tailor-made Banarasi brocade trousers, paired with informal black tank tops. In one other occasion, they wore handwoven snakeskin-inspired jackets that had been styled with dishevelled jeans straight out of the ’80s. That evening, they adorned their faces with pink and inexperienced paint whereas sitting astride a Royal Enfield. One was carrying a brilliant pink Banarasi brocade pantsuit whereas the opposite sported a two-piece set, consisting of an outsized blue jacket and shorts. From the casting to the hair and make-up, the outcome was a paradigm shift from how Banarasi textiles are often shot, particularly in Varanasi, the place a mystical presentation of the city’s famend ghats and sacred riverbank typically takes centre stage.

Because of their relentless experimentation, Shah and Dudani have come to be generally known as a formidable duo through the years. Verve asks them to replicate on the varied elements which have fuelled their journey….

Excerpts from the dialog….

What are the qualities you search for in a collaborator, and what do you suppose you deliver to a artistic collaboration?
Palak Shah (PS): I’ve all the time believed in collaborating, for my model and as an individual. Each time I’ve collaborated with Nikhil, he has introduced in a contemporary perspective that has opened my thoughts to new methods of seeing issues and my model. It’s a method for me to unlearn, be taught and develop. He’s additionally an individual who I tremendously belief, which is why we’ve been working collectively for thus a few years.

1. Pink tussar silk material (used as lungi), from Thaan; handwoven orange tissue dupatta (used as tie), from Ekaya Banaras; coat, stylist’s personal. 2. Handwoven blue and golden silk dupatta (used as balloon skirt), from Ekaya Banaras; gold-plated bracelet (used as waist chain), from Amrapali; cardigan and trousers, stylist’s personal.

Nikhil Dudani (ND): We had first mentioned working collectively when she had simply began [out]. Then in 2017, Palak talked about that she was seeking to shoot her first marketing campaign for Thaan and she or he requested me to pitch an concept. The form of freedom that I used to be given to make that temper board come to life drove me to maintain working together with her.

There was development by way of my very own work as nicely. Sometime, we may create a photograph ebook from the work that now we have completed collectively and it might have a definite language. Palak gave me the area to maintain coming again and proceed growing the narrative from the place we had left off.

Valley Of Flowers, Ekaya Banaras’ Fall/Winter 2022 assortment, shot by Adil Hasan.
[Photographed by Asad Sheikh.]

Nikhil, what was the transient like? Have been you accustomed to their work?
ND: I used to be conscious of what the model was doing and that they [Palak’s family] had been working with Banarasi textiles for a very long time. I used to be clued in to how Palak noticed the model rising. She had made it clear that she wished Ekaya’s Banarasi saris to look very completely different from how these saris are portrayed by different manufacturers. That received me excited to work with them. I believed to myself, “I can consider one million issues to do with this transient.” An opportunity like this doesn’t come by typically.

And, Palak, the place else did you need the main focus to be — other than displaying Banarasi textiles in a brand new method?
PS: I’m an unintended entrepreneur. I’m not from the style subject. I had studied enterprise administration and had meant to get into accounting and finance. So, for
me, the entire concept was to get somebody who’s an professional at what they do, and Nikhil, for my part, is greater than a stylist. He’s a mentor. I can bounce concepts off him. There’s by no means been a scenario the place I haven’t gotten any enter from him. It’s extra of a dialogue. Through the years, we’ve understood one another’s pulse and found what’s going to work and what gained’t. I all the time wished to create one thing that’s out of the field and breaks stereotypes, however not so conceptual and arty that solely we might perceive it.

Nikhil is the proper mix between a businessman and an artist — what my father and I wished, respectively.

ND: We all the time assessment every marketing campaign as soon as it’s out. After I discover {that a} marketing campaign isn’t producing the specified numbers by way of gross sales as a result of it’s too far out, now we have a dialogue on how we are able to tweak it the following time. So, we aren’t utilizing the identical system each time. We’re always evolving and taking suggestions from the shopper.

PS: After I began out I used to be simply 21 and we went with the everyday formulation: fairly fashions in “correctly” draped saris. Through the years, I began breaking away. Nikhil has helped with that.

For our first collaboration, Thaan, I had mentioned, “Let’s create a buzz and do one thing actually loopy.” And that made headlines like nothing else did. We shot a stupendous marketing campaign collectively known as Mehfooz, in Lucknow, in 2018. That marketing campaign stood out, nevertheless it wasn’t on account of oddly draped saris or peculiarly formed blouses. It wasn’t too fashion-forward however proved to be a turning level, a mushy transition into that enviornment. Nikhil and I’ve examined the waters as we’ve gone on. And now we have talked about creating one thing completely different every time.

Pixels, Ekaya Banaras’ Spring/Summer season 2023 assortment, shot by Farhan Hussain.
[Photographed by Asad Sheikh.]

Are you current at each shoot?
PS: Sure. I used to be current on the Feat. Artists shoot for the Pixels marketing campaign in Assam in February though I used to be getting married that month. I’ve learnt a lot from our shoots — be it the Masaba marketing campaign or our Ambush shoot. I’ve particularly learnt so much from Nikhil — by observing the way in which he’s styling, how he’s pondering. At most, I inform him whether it is working or not.

Nikhil, you’ve been very experimental in the case of draping. I bear in mind the Sakura marketing campaign, the place it felt very new.
ND: I’m a eager observer so I do preserve tucking away concepts behind my thoughts till somebody is able to use them. Palak could be very open to new ideas. Generally, they don’t work out and I spontaneously take a distinct route. With Ekaya, I typically have a look at what now we have completed up to now and attempt to replace it. From the start, I’ve form of favored “messing” with saris in some sense. It is going to nonetheless appear like a sari nevertheless it isn’t how we’re often anticipated to put on or pleat it. To be given the leeway to show it in an uncommon method is vital, and it really works more often than not. Very not often will you see two saris draped equally in two completely different Ekaya campaigns. For Sakura, which had a really minimal look, I researched Japanese drapes. We determined that they wouldn’t hug the physique an excessive amount of and this shaped the crux of the marketing campaign.

PS: However with Ambush, we wished a extra fitted look.

Ambush, Ekaya Banaras’ Spring/Summer season 2022 assortment, shot by Tenzing Dakpa.

Let’s focus on that marketing campaign. What I discovered attention-grabbing is that the textiles have motifs of searching and wildlife however none of that’s within the imagery.
PS: I despatched Nikhil an image of Kim Kardashian in her lavatory in these thigh-high boots, trying completely fashionable, and I informed him that I wished my saris to be positioned like that — I wished them to look as attractive and sensual as she did. Then got here the slit sari, the jacket and the glasses, and the shoot grew to become extra in regards to the imaginative and prescient and aesthetic that we wished to painting than the motifs on the merchandise.

ND: After I’m given jungle motifs, the very last thing that I’d do is place it in opposition to the backdrop of a jungle. Since we had been Kim as the start line, I used to be keener to visualise an area that she would most likely inhabit. Marble, stone and gray partitions got here to thoughts — I may see her in a minimal area like that.

We made use of rings to drape the saris and this gave them a extra fitted look and confirmed extra pores and skin. The blouses had deeper necklines with quite a lot of tie-ups, they usually precisely matched the saris. It is a girl who would put on a head-to-toe print…. Every part was impressed by Kim Kardashian, even by way of hair and make-up. We solid ladies who’re perceived as attractive. The analysis was additionally about understanding the new-age influencer, a girl who’s being photographed wherever she goes, on a regular basis. She doesn’t really feel the necessity to put on a swimsuit at a press convention or a gathering; she will be able to pull off a sari wrapped in a method that doesn’t really feel fussy.

The Masaba x Ekaya Banaras collaboration, shot by Bikramjit Bose, for Ekaya Banaras.

Inform us in regards to the Masaba x Ekaya marketing campaign, which received rave critiques.
ND: Masaba was very concerned within the course of. She had many artistic discussions with photographer Bikramjit Bose. They wished to include motion and depict the sari as practical. They wished motion. At that time, I remembered Masaba’s direct reference to cricket. I used to be fearful it might be too apparent to pitch this, however I did it as a result of I’d by no means seen an Indian sari marketing campaign displaying girls taking part in cricket. So, we constructed the entire narrative round that.

Taking pictures it was actually enjoyable. The ladies needed to learn to play cricket. We meant to solid ladies who knew methods to play the sport, however we didn’t discover many fashions who knew methods to. We did discover one who may bowl so these photographs had been fairly convincing. And, in fact, we made them put on sneakers in order that they had been comfy operating round.

1. Handwoven striped lilac brocade coat, from Ekaya Banaras. 2. Handwoven blue and golden silk dupatta (used as balloon skirt), from Ekaya Banaras; gold-plated bracelet (used as waist chain), from Amrapali; cardigan, stylist’s personal.

How do the weavers react to the marketing campaign imagery? What sort of suggestions do you get from them?
PS: The weavers might not have a really constructive response to each marketing campaign as a result of the campaigns are so unconventional. Even by way of creating completely different merchandise, many are hesitant at first. They are saying,“Yeh chal payega ya nahi chal payega? Yeh kya bana rahe hain?” [Will this work or not? What are we making?] As soon as, Nikhil and I had been making an attempt to see if we may use the again of a weave. My father was working with the weavers, who had been fairly unconvinced. However, fortunately, my father is open to experimentation. The weavers don’t all the time perceive our imaginative and prescient, however there are particular campaigns that they love.

How would you describe your position?
PS: My position is to inspire the varied staff members in any respect factors, and provides them entry. Additionally, to all the time reiterate that now we have to deliver one thing new to the desk. The purpose of the model is to not cater solely to at least one viewers section.

Has there ever been any unfavourable response to the campaigns?
PS: I’ve by no means confronted any backlash as such. However part of the viewers discovered the movies for The Crossing — Natives of Nowhere marketing campaign (2019) unnerving. However once more, I feel that it was method forward of its time.

Nikhil, in what course would you prefer to see the model develop?
ND: It’s vital that I introduce Palak to people whose work is correct for her model. I’ve facilitated conferences between Palak and stylists who work at my expertise company, and I like what they’ve conceptualised for her. It matches into the larger story that now we have created and once we make that photograph ebook, I’d be joyful to see their work in there.

Ekaya is forward of its time and can be remembered for that. If you have a look at Instagram, the imagery could be very related in the case of manufacturers which are dressing girls in saris. After we shot for the Kashi within the Clouds assortment in Varanasi, it was photographer Rid Burman’s concept to shoot ladies who wore their hair brief and regarded boyish. That was very new for a Banarasi model. In a way, they appear like two boys strolling on the ghats, and that, to me, was pushing the envelope for a business model promoting ready-to-wear to girls; their purchasers weren’t anticipating to see one thing like that. It regarded just like the form of imagery I’d need to see if I had been going to a model to buy. It wasn’t simply the pictures that spoke to me but additionally the people within the photos; they replicate a sure life-style that I affiliate with and relate to. So, these are the form of campaigns that I wish to proceed to be a part of.

1. Handwoven inexperienced organza sari, from Ekaya Banaras; knit tube high, stylist’s personal 2. Digitally printed silk skirt, corset shirt in crimson satin, each from Ekaya Banaras; shirt and tights, stylist’s personal.

PS: We’re going to do extra of those campaigns quickly.

ND: The Crossing — Natives of Nowhere marketing campaign was additionally particular.

PS: I really like that marketing campaign. It’s considered one of my favourites.

ND: We did push boundaries so much with that one. The drapes and the headgear had been impressed by tribal girls. It was a powerful marketing campaign, and truly that’s when the discuss of the ebook began.

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