Indian Pride - Gaurang Shah talks with You & I

He’s been credited with introducing the saree on the ramp in a big way, and putting Hyderabad up there in the fashion stakes. Gaurang has had a successful run with his love of textiles, and some of the country’s most distinguished women have been seen sporting his clothes.

You’ve had quite the successful journey in the fashion world. Can you tell us what it’s been like so far?
It has been immensely satisfying as we see the rising adulation for handcrafted textiles. What makes me even prouder is the upliftment and economic stability we have been able to create for more than 800 weavers across the nation.

We have also been able to introduce a lot of innovation in jamdani weaving technique, block printing, hand painting, natural dyes, and interweaving textiles. What is also heartening is that the new generations of weavers have begun to have faith in the business of weaving, and they are returning to the looms all over again. To enhance sustainability, we have also helped the artisans acquire diversity in their weaving techniques.

Take us through some of the highlights of your career.
Bringing the saree back in vogue on the fashion platform gives me lot of joy. The introduction of the big border is another interesting milestone in my textile design career – new textures, cross-border designs, and techniques! Every day, every saree is a milestone for me! I first conceptualised my fashion design journey sitting in my father’s small Indian Emporium store, which was established in 1962 and which sold sarees and textiles. As I grew up, I felt that women would be ready to move beyond georgette and chiffons sarees if presented with alternative fabric, textures, and patterns.
My vision was to create sarees made in traditional jamdani weaves on handwoven fabrics, using eco-friendly techniques like the use of natural dyes and giving a modern twist to our traditional fabrics. Bringing about these changes was overwhelming. Yet I pursued them with grit and eventually I feel great pride when my clients admire the work I present to them season after season.

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered, and how do you deal with them? 
The biggest challenge was to ‘change’ the conventional outlook of Indian textiles from being a boring work of fashion art to something far more vibrant, youthful, and an all-occasion showstopper. It was a Herculean task to build confidence even at the grassroots weaver level; giving them the confidence that change will bring riches to them and to their work. Most importantly, it will also bring about sustainability.

Who are your favourite fashion icons, and why?
For me, every woman in the universe is a fashion icon. They carry a personality of their own when they wear clothing that becomes a trendsetter. In the influencer world, I have immense admiration for Rekha, Kirron Kher, and Sridevi, who carry sarees with great aplomb. Vidya Balan is a staunch supporter of the traditional handwoven saree, and Sonam Kapoor’s fashion choices, which blend the past with modernity, are also admirable. I am always pleased to see a fashion icon seeking fashion and sarees from us; it is absolutely inspiring and a tribute to our work in jamdani weaving.

What inspires you?
The saree. The six-yard wonder has fascinated me ever since I was an eight-year-old boy visiting my father’s store. The saree has given my dreams life. My team of weavers breathes life into every
near-impossible creative thought. Everyone around me inspires me – my customers, my weavers, nature, and the architectural marvels of India, traditions, and culture.

What are some of the lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
Knowing is about being practical and things being achievable. It is a continuous process. The passion to learn, the willingness to break new barriers in textile innovation, and the faith in your abilities are the biggest takeaways in my life – as a young boy till now. This was my inner-self, and I knew that I had to harness this as I grew up.  What is equally important is the ability to rise even when you fall, and to continue on the path you believe in.

Another biggest lesson was to understand everything at the grassroots level. Before embarking on my journey as a textile designer, I learnt what textiles are about – the colours, the fabrics, the weaving technique, the limitation in the looms, weaver challenges, and eventually the distribution. If you don’t understand textiles, then you are not fit to be in the business of fashion.

What are some of your other hobbies and passions?
I love reading, music and travel. My undying passion is to make every woman in the universe wear the beautiful handcrafted Indian saree. I want women to feel absolutely confident and ecstatic when they wear my creations. I want them to say ‘Yeh Dil Mange More’.--- as told to Suneela