What: Vintage Tales by Ashdeen
Where: 85 Lansdowne, 85B Sarat Bose Road
When: September 7 and 8; 11am-7.30pm
Ashdeen Z. Lilaowala travelled back to the decade-old “studio culture” among the Parsis to bring to life Vintage Tales, the festive line that he is getting to Calcutta. The designer chatted with t2 ahead of his showing at 85 Lansdowne.
What is Vintage Tales about?
We were looking at photographs from 19th and 20th centuries of Parsi families, which were clicked in the studios. Very regal! Photography was a new medium and the community was rich. So, they kind of invested in this. We have an archive of photographs which showcases this. The inspiration of the collection is from there.
We have taken the traditional motifs and changed the scales and fabrics. There is this motif called Kanda Papeta which is onions and potatoes… it’s polka dots basically. We have blown it up and made them very graphic and modern. We have worked with organza and we have used blush pink, which you generally don’t see in Parsi embroidery.
We have heavy saris which can be worn to a wedding and lighter ones that can be worn for cocktails. We have a lot of add-ons like stoles, clutch bags, jackets; different things that make the collection festive.
What about the retro archives attracted you?
I have a huge collection of these photographs and it so happened that I opened the book and it was in front of me. I was like, ‘Oh my god… this could be the theme’. Because we do classic stuff which is more like an heirloom, the focus is not necessarily on making something trend-driven.
What did you reconnect with from that era and fell in love with once again?
There were lots of these rules that were followed when they’d go for these portraits. You couldn’t move because the exposure was so long. Because it was all black and white or sepia, there were certain colours which turned out quite nice in the pictures. Smiling was off the charts. They composed the image in the studio. The matriarch would be seated in the centre and sons would be on the side. So, it was also to establish the family chart. The photographs would tell their stories. So, that’s why we are calling it Vintage Tales.
Any new motif that you discovered?
There is this grid, like a barfi, very geometric. We found these saris which were completely filled with that design. We have kept that in the main part of the sari and the pallu is floral. Many people didn’t know Parsi embroidery had geometry.
How did you find craftsmen who could bring to life such fine embroidery?
We have been very lucky with craftspeople and I always say that our country is a pool of talent. You just have to patronise them and give them the respect that they deserve. We work with over 150 craftsmen and we don’t push them. If they get the time, they get paid adequately and if they can see a livelihood in this, they are ready to do it. We largely work with people from Bengal.