Enjoying Parsi couture with Ashdeen Lilaowala
Ashdeen Lilaowala is one of the few Indian designers to have brought insight into Parsi tailoring to the country. Famous for her Parsi gara designs that blend age-old Parsi embroidery techniques with her design sensibilities, Ashdeen’s work not only reflects exemplary technique, but the craftsmanship and intricate detailing is a work of art. Today, he is sought after for his embroidered creations which give a modern touch to the Gara.
Launching its eponymous label in October 2012, the brand is now well known for its hand-embroidered sarees and Persian hand-embroidery techniques. The designer has built an enviable following with his flagship store in the capital city of New Delhi, but this year he launched a new store in Colaba, Mumbai. Ashdeen’s new store boasts the brand’s signature aesthetic and label value of revival of traditions. From bridal lehengas to western separates and accessories, sarees with patterns and color palettes to suit modern tastes and the use of lighter, more wearable fabrics; the store houses everything.
LuxuryBook caught up with the veteran for a deeper understanding of Parsi tailoring and his future in India.
You are a veteran when it comes to Parsi design, tell us a bit about the unique techniques that define Parsi tailoring.
Parsi Gara craftsmanship is an amalgamation of various textile traditions including Chinese, Persian, European and Indian. The unique craftsmanship has evolved to keep pace with the vibrant Parsi community as well as its non-Parsi customers. Parsi Gara embroidery uses satin, crewel or aari and stem stitches as the main basic stitches in addition to specialty stitches such as the meticulous French knot or khakha and the Jaal technique inspired by tatting lace.
How has the Indian market reacted to Parsi tailoring, and is it a growing market every year?
There is certainly a renewed interest and resurgence in Parsi Gara craftsmanship in recent years, as many young entrepreneurs and designers are making Parsi Garas, either by hand or using machines. I feel lucky to play a small part in this historic moment and hope that the legacy of this beautiful textile will continue.
Are brides and grooms more accepting of Parsi couture as their preferred wedding choice?
Our bridal lehengas are doing very well as young brides are eager to wear gara embroidered lehengas for their big day. Brides are also passionate about crafts as part of their trousseau. The inclusion of a dedicated wedding salon space is an indication of how important this category is to us. We also take orders for custom menswear pieces for the groom to match the bride’s lehengas.
You are known for your exceptional artisanal Parsi Gara, tell us a bit about it.
Depending on the nature of the work, a Parsi gara can take anywhere from three weeks to two months to complete with six to eight craftsmen working on a park together. This meticulous and highly skilled manual work is what sets the Parsi gara apart and makes it valuable. India is endowed with world-class embroidery masters who have not only absorbed this global art form but imbued it with their own creativity, finesse and skill.
What makes Ashdeen’s creations so unique and what inspired you to enter the world of Gara craftsmanship?
The park has fascinated me since my childhood. My mother, who has always had a keen interest in textiles, was my biggest influence. I honed my interest as a textile design student at NID. After graduating, I worked with the UNESCO Parzor Foundation, traveling across India and the world to document the park and that’s really where it all started. The Ashdeen brand strives to find the perfect balance between preserving the very essence of embroidery tradition and innovation in applications.
After opening a store in Delhi, what prompted you to open one in Mumbai?
I was born in Mumbai and spent my impressionable years in the city, before moving to NID, Ahmedabad to study textile design, before setting up my brand in Delhi. My parents still live in Mumbai and this is home above all else. A flagship store in Mumbai was always on the cards as the Parsi Gara also has a history in the city. Opening this store in an iconic location in Colaba, Mumbai is kind of a homecoming for me.
What does the future of the brand hold, can we expect more stores? Will there be a focus on the bride or do you plan to offer a loan line?
I never say never, so maybe there will be more stores and I will also offer a Prét line. We’ve done some interesting collaborations, including with textile brand Benarasi Ekaya, boutique brand Kanjivaram Kanakavalli and luxury jewelry brand Zoya. I look forward to more creative collaborations in the future. Marriage will also continue to be an important category for us in the coming year.