Speckled with the enchanting motifs of blossoming peonies, designer Ashdeen Lilaowala’s recent collection Paradise Crafted showcases an inviting range of ageless Gara embroidered saris which were once the Parsi women’s signature garbs of defiance to European fashion.
The ageless grace of a traditional Parsi Gara is tempting. Gara embroidery came into vogue when the Parsis in India earned a fortune and settled in Bombay by trading opium and cotton with China in exchange for tea. As per the legend, the traders brought back a new kind of artistic embroidery, which was very charming in its depiction of flora and fauna and was targeted to the European market.
The women of the Parsi community adopted the Gara saris as their signature as a rival European Chintz fabric in order to make their presence felt and sand apart.
There are many quirky monickers for Gara motifs that derive their names from the cultures, Paris came in touch with during trades with China. For instance ‘Cheena Cheeni’ which depicts a Chinese man and a Chinese woman against a landscape of pagodas, a ‘Karoliya’, or a spider, ‘Marga Margi’, which is a rooster and a hen and there’s a ‘Chakla Chakli’ too, which is a male and female sparrow. then there is a polka-dotted motif is called ‘kaanda papeta’, which stands for onion potato. Polka dots is one of the extensively used designs.
The peonies are the chief motif in the Ashdeen Lilaowala’s Paradise Crafted, the latest collection of Parsi gara saris, jackets, and skirts. As is the lotus, and the designer’s signatures such as the crane and the butterfly. The petals are curled in a manner it creates an illusion of being real and dynamic as one can see the foreground and the background.
The designer has been working with new fabrics, too, including lace, georgette satin, and raw silk, and hopes it will be a seminal work on Parsi Gara. Connecting with local photographers and models in order to put sari in their city’s context and collaborating with design institutes and museums he aims to make this rare embroidery style know to the masses so they can wear a legacy.
Lilaowala has expanded on the ‘paradise’ theme by incorporating a “Shangrila-esque feel” through embroidery featuring mountains, waterfalls, and angels. The whole idea is to jazz up the spirits and boost the morale of the designer fraternity after the utopia of pandemics.
Cover image by The Week