The taste of tradition - The Hindu

February 16, 2017 08:43 pm | Updated 08:57 pm IST

A master creator and presenter of archetypal sari in myriad hues and innovative designs, Hyderabad-based designer Gaurang Shah comes across as a man of simple taste and high thinking. Like his fashion sensibilities have a distinct traditional appeal, in food too he is firm that it has to be indigenous food. And like diversity can be seen in his designs, he prefers variations in food too. Chilli Powder Packing Machine

The taste of tradition  - The Hindu

After a brief interaction at the lobby of Hotel Shangri-La’s Eros we walk into Tamra restaurant where we take the window seat where leaves of an oversize tree catches his attention. As dusk is about to set in, he politely turns down request for an elaborate main course. Kashmiri food festival is on at the restaurant but he doesn’t succumb to its temptation.

“Apart from my staple Hyderabadi biryani cooked either by my mother or local restaurants, I love trying new things but at this time, I cannot be eating much.”

He finally opts for tomato sandwich. He doesn’t want to convey the impression that he is a frugal eater. He zeroes in on chocolate shakes which he takes “once in a blue moon.”

At home in Hyderabad, it is tangy sweet Gujarati food that Gaurang is fond of eating. “Food and designs have a correlation. They blend together in an interesting way. Look at the colours, textures of clothes and taste of dishes. It all boils down to individual choice whether it is for clothes or cuisine.”

Just like the dhokla, khatti meethi dal, he savours, there is correlation between palate and pattern making on his creations. His saris have a striking contrast; shimmery on one side and subdued on the other. “My sari has a bright and a subtle side. New colour combinations are experimented. The idea is to draw customers to appreciate different colours I bring on the fabric. If my customer wears it, ten people should appreciate her.”

Calling himself a traditionalist, which is reflected in his selection of food and outfits, he says: “Fusion clothing is the mantra of designers, who have divergent style, clientèle. I am known for traditional clothing. I cannot make modern or fusion. Last March, I made gowns from handwoven material but they were made for fun, experimental basis. My saris are sold the next day they are put on display. For me sari will always be in its usual shape. We do not intend to ridicule ourselves by changing it or pairing it with another garment. Accessories are important. Since we do high end saris, they are teamed with real jewellery.”

Jamdani, the art of placing suspended geometric motifs on the surface of almost diaphanous fabric, has been given a push by Gaurang. At the recently concluded Lakme India Fashion Week, he translated Jamdani weaves into khadi, kota and organza with yarns like muga and silk to create an alluring play of light and shadow in his “Muslin” collection. “Jamdani is a technique where there is no involvement of machine. It has no restriction whereas in other machines there is jacquard. Here we can change every sari, design and colour. Very easy to work yet overall it is difficult and time consuming process. Every sari takes months to make.”

His fascination for Jamdani weaves can be seen from the fact that his weavers are spread across the nation. “We are working in Jamdani in various states as it is a versatile weave. In jacquard, the design is fixed. Here the technique is the same but the yarn varies. In Bengal, it is done on cotton and tussar, whereas in Andhra it is on silk. We have also done in khadi. In Rajasthan, it is done on kota; these are jalli type. We also train weavers.”

Like his choice of saris, anarkalis and kurtis, the conventionalist comes alive when it comes to eating. Like his fashion, his food intake also has an element of purity.

Indian food is his number one choice whether within the country or exotic overseas locations. “ Ghoom phir ke hum dal, roti, chawal hi khate hain .

Vegetarian is everywhere; if not Indian then local food is there.”

His earliest memories of food is of his father returning home to eat a hearty meal of dal dhokri, khichri, bhel puri made by his mother.

“I also cook.Khane ka shauk hai to banane ka bhi shauk hai.I make bhel, dosa... ."

Now, Gaurang has a Delhi address as his store was recently launched in posh Defence Colony which has who’s who of the fashion world. He has been travelling off and on to the city for realising his dream to reach out to fashionistas here.

Gaurang believes in partaking local food while he is in a city for work. “In Delhi, I like chole bhature, parathe of Parathe Wali Gali and dal makhni with naan. In Mumbai it is vada pav. In Banaras, I take malai wali lassi, mishti doi in Kolkata, in Kanchipuram, I enjoy meal served on banana leaves. At Jaipur, it is dal baati churma. At Bhuj, I eat a big thali comprising 70 items of veggies, salads, sweets.”

As he gazes out of the window once again to admire the contour of leaves, Gaurang says he sketches whatever catches his attention but largely it is architecture, intricate wall carvings, statues and filigree of temples and monuments.

“I have drawn motivation from Taj Mahal’s inlay work in creating designs for saris and other outfits. Background was white; weaving was done in different colours by artisans from Andhra.”

Gaurang’s sketches, perfected while undertaking interior designing course at Module in Hyderabad, come in handy for weavers.

“When I first gave my sketches to weavers of Andhra they had apprehension whether new designs would work. The input completely changed the look of garments and their outlook. For them it was new textures and designs. They had never weaved on those designs. Our weaving technique is same but designs are new and innovative. We do a lot of fusion and innovativeness by using yarn of different kinds,” says the designer, who is conversant in Telugu.

Fashion thrives on newness and Gaurang, who has had hands on training at his father’s sari and blouse making store in Mumbai since he was in school, knows this pretty well. While his pencil is resting, his mind is working on getting the best possible shapes for his designs. “My mind is working on designs all the time. If I do not work on new configurations, how am I going to attract clientèle.”

As he gulps down his chocolate shake, Gaurang says he is not a philanthropist and ridicules those who say from rooftops that their work is benefiting weaving community.

“I pay remuneration to weavers for their work. I don’t pay them when there is no work. So I make sure they get assignment and we have second generation of weavers.” Now, that’s some food for thought for many in his fraternity!

The Hindu MetroPlus / Table For Two / fashion

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