Ashdeen Lillaowala On Keeping Traditional Crafts Alive


September 26, 2023

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Persian excellence takes centre stage as Ashdeen and Good Earth come together for a one-of-a-kind limited-edition capsule collection that takes inspiration from Persia’s famous seven-coloured decorative tiles. Known for his ground-breaking work in reviving Parsi Gara work and giving his cultural heritage a public platform through his self-titled label, Ashdeen’s new collaboration with Good Earth is titled “Haft Rang”, and features a line of saris, jackets, kurtas, stoles, scarves, and bags in a vibrant colour palette that is a treat for the eyes. The designer speaks to us on the challenges of reviving a dying craft.

Article by Pratiksha Acharya | GRAZIA

GRAZIA: What technical obstacles do you face when trying to revive an intricate craft?

LILAOWALA: Our craftspeople are at the heart of everything we do. I wouldn’t call it a technical obstacle, but our biggest challenge when we started the brand was setting up a commercially viable enterprise. This would help us eventually to sustain the craft, remunerate our artisans fairly, and help them grow and thrive. Training the artisans in technical and aesthetic skills to help them achieve a mastery of the handmade craft is part of this. Another challenge we’ve faced is opening people’s minds and showing them the possibilities of everything that the Gara could be. Even today, the odd customer says I always thought Gara was a border sari. It’s so much more than that.


G: How well is Gara work received outside the Parsi community?

AL: We’ve always been fortunate to enjoy a strong following and patronage among discerning textile enthusiasts outside the Parsi community. It’s been a pleasure to dress people from different walks of life interested in the intricacies of the craft and the heritage and nuances of Parsi culture that are an integral part of our work.


G: How do you bind tradition and modernity together?

AL: Our endeavour has been to keep the essence of the Parsi Gara embroidery tradition alive while innovating in applications through which we have been able to engage with younger generations of Parsis and non-Parsi wearers. Specifically, this translates as stylised application of motifs, a colour palette fine-tuned to suit contemporary tastes and lighter fabric. In addition, we have also opened the embroidery applications, placing them on lehengas, blouses, jackets, scarves and accessories to enhance the wearability factor.