This exhibition is an ode to the specialised Indian textiles. It presents five contemporary collections by Swati & Sunaina Gold. In the process, it showcases facets of the extraordinary history of zari in its purest form. The exhibition hopes to bring attention to the myriad of meanings and manifestations of this extraordinary art form for a contemporary audience from 11am to 7.30pm on Wednesday and Thursday, October 4th and 5th, 2023 at The Folly, Amethyst, Whites Road, Royapettah, Chennai. Ph : 7338899176 / 8056018886
Designer Sunaina Jain will be available for an interview on October 4th and 5th, 2023 and for a telephone /email interaction prior the event. In case that interests you, please do let us know and we will be happy to coordinate.
Swati & Sunaina Gold is a luxury handmade textile brand, started in 2015. Since it’s inception, it has been committed to preserving and innovating with the highest levels of artistry and hand craftsmanship in Banaras. It’s single edition sarees are contemporary heirlooms for today’s connoisseurs. Each one-of-a-kind saree is handwoven over several months, benchmarking excellence in quality of materials and design which attempt to match historical masterpieces, ensuring simultaneously, comfort for today’s wearer.
Preserving heirloom traditions of Banaras textiles in real zari
Vanya, Rangkaat, Gyaser, Aab-e-Zar, Beyond Borders & Classics
Made from finest silk, using real zari, the eponymous label of Swati & Sunaina Gold presents a limited-edition collection of sarees and dupattas woven on the indigenous pit looms of Banaras. Their designs showcase modern interpretations of antique textiles.
The elegant women behind the label, Swati Agarwal & Sunaina Jalan, came together in 2007 in Kolkata, with a conviction to bring back the lost treasures of Indian woven textiles and offer them to a discerning audience that truly appreciates craft and the effort of master craftsmen.
What started as an enterprise of passion with small batches of hand-woven sarees in different pure textiles, in 2015 has led to the launch of their label Swati & Sunaina Gold. The textiles are painstakingly created with meticulous research and an endeavor devoted to infuse innovation and freshness. This reflects in the motifs, colours and placements, culminating in single edition sarees that celebrate tradition.
Swati & Sunaina Gold make every saree in a single color way for each design comprising 6 colours making it a truly bespoke heirloom textile. There will be no repeat of these pieces. The use of pure zari, sourced and certified to weave sarees intricately with artistic mastery is the hallmark of the label, that consciously chooses quality over quantity, purity over commerciality and specialty over generality.
The sarees are packaged in a beautiful wooden box that encloses the certificate of authenticity, the real silver/gold thread for testing, care instructions and style guide sharing the design details, saree serial number, weavers name, number of days taken to weave, fabric, warp and weft details, thread count, weaving technique, zari weight and purity details and saree weight and handloom and silk authenticity details.
Pure zari Banarasi sarees by Swati & Sunaina Gold – Collection highlights:
Only natural fibers have been used in the creation of the collection.
Eco-friendly dyeing is used to ensure no damage is done to the environment.
VANYA: COLLECTION NO. 1
Swati & Sunaina Gold celebrates the use of wild silks, and their organic hues and sheen in the 2022-23 collection, Vanya.
Since the brand’s genesis, its core values have remained the use of pure zari and fibres, the pursuit of rare weaving traditions of Banaras to their highest forms of excellence, a largely floral repertory of motifs and patterns, and the development of thematic collections based on historical research.
In keeping with these, Vanya suggests the idea of the rare tussar, eri and muga, much like metallic yarns, as threads of gold.
Since the collection’s inception it was static that the colour palette for a collection with such wild silks would be a departure from that associated with the brand. An organic, earthier range was sought. Miniature paintings became an inspiration, which had been researched while conceiving the earlier Aab-e-Zar collection which was inspired by their gold borders, or the art of Hashiya. With their subtle yet effective pigments in yellow, indigo, dark reds and greens, the depictions of night scenes of gardens and forests, where white, fragrant flowers are often shown blooming, provided another layer of reference. The collection in this way celebrates the concept of the Indian night garden, epitomised through a use of Indian floral motifs in a stylisation and composition never seen before: The Brahmakala (night blooming cereus), Aparajita (butterfly pea), Rajnigandha (tuberose), Bela (arabian jasmine) and Juhi (night blooming jasmine), with their shades and tones of white, come alive with the natural wild silks.
Vanya is the first such extensive exploration of contemporary Banaras handlooms in such silks along with the experimentation of creative possibilities in the traditions of Rangkaat, Kadhuwa and Gyaser (Images attached).
RANGKAAT: COLLECTION NO. 2
Rangkaat – a rare technique of hand-weaving in Banaras – is a part of Swati & Sunaina Gold’s Classic series. It stands out for a distinctly vivid play of colours, accented by our quintessential use of gold zari in fine hand craftsmanship.
The word rangkaat literally means ‘to cut colour’ in Hindi, invoking the idea of colour blocking in a rare and unique tradition of hand weaving in Banaras. This play of colours is a specific feature of the rangkaat tradition, revisited by Swati & Sunaina Gold since it’s inception. The brand’s collections of rangkaat sarees represent it’s commitment to the highest forms of excellence in hand-weaving in Indian handlooms, expressed through the use of the purest form of handmade zari being made in the country, environment friendly natural dyes in pure mulberry silk and single editions.
GYASER: COLLECTION NO. 3
The early nineteenth century saw heavily patterned silks being supplied to Tibet from Varanasi. They were woven as yardage in twenty eight inch width, in a satin weave. They were called gyaser. Buddhist monasteries from Bhutan to Sri Lanka and Tibet used these boldly patterned (with silk and zari) fabrics. The early 1980’s saw an intervention in design where gyaser was sought to have a more contemporary appeal in terms of weight, texture, patterns and width of fabric. The fabrics were woven with continuous supplementary wefts of gold zari and silk, bound in a twill weave to the satin foundation by a secondary warp system. Another intervention was worked towards increasing the width of the fabric and metal thread was also used in twill patterns to completely encrust the surface.
Swati & Sunaina Gold has worked for a few years to make the gyaser weave suitable to be draped as a saree. The multiple challenges included reducing the weight, increasing the width and modifying the construction of the textile to make it light and supple, all the while retaining the original character of these bold and impressive textiles. A special zari was created in pure silver (98.5% purity) and electroplated with 24 carat gold to achieve the bright tone required in a gyaser textile.
AAB-E-ZAR: COLLECTION NO. 4
Aab-e-zar in Urdu means golden water. Swati & Sunaina Gold’s 2020 collection of handwoven sarees from Banaras, revisits the tradition of silk and metallic weaving in India, inspired by the translucency, incandescence and sheen of water. In keeping with the brand’s quintessential use of pure gold zari, these sarees attempt unmatched subtleness, softness and drapability. The collection’s repertory of designs are taken from the art of hashiya, intricately hand painted borders seen in Mughal miniature paintings, which used pure gold leaf.
Historically, Indian textiles have evoked the magic of water – its flow, lightness and reflective qualities. The 15th century poet and saint Kabir epitomised the metaphor of jhini chadariya in his verse – a sheer fabric, the weft and warp of which is compared to the fragile body itself. As bhini chadriya, such cloth is wet as the mist along the river. In the famed Mughal char bagh and pleasure gardens, sheets of carved marble were made into streams of running water, their gentle sound a feast for the senses. Called pani ki chadar – shawls of water – these were immortalised in Mughal brocades, their gold and silver threads mimicking the flow of these streams.
Aab-e-zar has it’s genesis in 2015, when Swati & Sunaina Gold started exploring the tradition of silk and zari fabrics in Banaras, popularly and generically known as ‘tissue’. Here either the warp or the weft uses zari or metallic yarns entirely, while the other is in silk. Developed as three sarees in a limited edition, the brand was inspired to call this collection Shabnam, the Urdu word for ‘morning dew on leaves’. Playing with the use of gold zari to capture the look of the sun’s reflection on these water droplets, the initial ideas developed then have informed the present range of sarees. In the process, Aab-e-zar has furthered the efforts of the brand to engage with the diverse techniques of brocaded handlooms in Banaras, which in the past have included Jamdani, Rangkaat and Gyaser.
In the 1930s and 40s, tissue sarees from Banaras are known to be the preferred choice for discerning brides in Northern India. Despite the use of heavy brocading, these were comfortable to wear. Besides, the contrast between the lightweight fabric and the dense patterning required a mastery of hand-weaving, which has been observed to have diminished in recent decades. As a result, the word ‘tissue’ at once brings up notions of unwieldy, difficult-to-wear sarees, as well as dull hand craftsmanship.
One reason for the common perception of such ‘tissue’ saree’s lack of lustre, is the use of synthetic zari, which stiffens the fabric, while reducing the possibilities of refined patterns and motifs. By using pure zari, Swati & Sunaina Gold has worked closely with master weavers to revive the original qualities of the Banaras tissue, addressing these and other challenges.
BEYOND BORDERS: COLLECTION NO. 5
This limited edition collection of designs, revisits the tradition of attaching woven brocade borders to sarees, which was introduced in India from the early 20th century onwards by women from Indian royalty. With the popularity of imported European brocades during this period, French and Italian brocades were customised for specific tastes of Indian Maharanis and Princesses, and in time, Indian handloom centres such as Banaras were observed to have evolved their own versions of these.
Whether attached to traditional fabrics such as Chanderis and Maheshwaris, or imported ones like silk chiffon and glass nylon, such tastes were soon adopted by women from the aristocratic, mercantile and professional elites in urban India. By the 1960s, this tradition was epitomised in a use of shaded and ombre dyed chiffons, made widely popular by Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur. Perhaps without coincidence, it was her mother, Maharani Indira Devi of Cooch Behar who has been credited to having started the custom of the saree using French chiffon with attached brocaded borders.
The Beyond Borders collection by Swati & Sunaina Gold offers five designs of borders along with options of sarees in pure silk-zari tissue, silk organza, cotton muslin, ek-taar or single ply fine silk and spun silk which enables a luxurious, earthy texture. These offer the Swati & Sunaina Gold collector the chance to customise their choice of the borders with the sarees. The collection’s designs for the borders are drawn from sarees of Indian Maharanis as seen in portraits and samples from the early to mid 20th century. The motifs of the sarees are drawn from Indian architecture and historical textiles.
CLASSICS: COLLECTION NO. 6
Till almost a century ago, the best handloom sarees and unstitched drapes were woven with pure metallic yarn made of gold and silver. From Banarsis and Paithanis, to Jamdanis and Kaneejvarams, such use of precious metals in hand-weaving can be seen as intrinsic to cultures that regarded clothing as sacred, even as offerings to Gods and Goddesses – standing for community values.
For a few years now, Kolkata-based designers Swati Agarwal & Sunaina Jalan have worked with master weavers to re-introduce pure zari in interpretations of classic designs in Banaras. This has involved studying how such zari is made, a tradition kept alive by the last such atelier in the world, in the city of Banaras.
The classic designs of sarees in Banaras are largely composed using elements of bel, buta and the overall pattern jaal. Swati & Sunaina Gold has constantly explored new interpretations in these while drawing from the rich and wide range of traditional, banarasi designs. The sarees featured here represent such collections by Swati & Sunaina Gold of classic Banaras sarees.
Their starting price point is INR 1.8 lakhs and it varies from collection to collection.
Please find some images in the attachment, which we hope you find useful.
We look forward to receiving a confirmation of your presence and coordinating any requests you may have in this respect.
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