Tarun Tahiliani on Shawls and Textiles

In conjunction with Saffronart’s Auction of Carpets, Rugs & Textiles and the collection Woven in Kashmir on The Story by SaffronartYamini Telkar of Saffronart speaks with designer Tarun Tahiliani about his collection and design aesthetics

Tarun Tahiliani

New Delhi:  Renowned fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani has always been popular for the way his traditional outfits are draped. Noted for his use of historic Indian textiles and motifs, he goes over Saffronart’s auction catalogue of Carpets, Rugs and Textiles, talking about his love for shawls and their popularity in contemporary designs.

Q. Can you tell us a little about your collection of shawls? What drew you to them, and do you have any particular favourite pieces?

My first beautiful shawl is something I inherited from my mother. It was an agonizing decision for her because it was a men’s size and being a naval wife, she had limited resources, so a huge kanni jamewar was something extraordinary – however I do not think except for very old families, the taste for these wonderful Indian heirlooms was overtly developed yet.

Subsequently while living in Delhi one got more exposed to the world of these shawls and seeing the Calico Museum’s collection really sealed this passion – for colours, motifs and finesse I have not seen much in this caliber and I particularly love the matte feeling of the wools being as they are in wool. For complex pattern and colours some of the shawls are literally greater works of art than much that is merely conceptual today.  So I started to collect them – often finding amazing pieces in the New York and French flea markets.  Before treating, they must have been necessary accessories but now can sometimes, however beautiful, feel a little cumbersome to manage.  Oh to find something that looked like a jamewar but felt like a shahtoosh!

Q. You incorporate the rich history of Indian textiles in your contemporary creations in several ways. What motivated you to do this?

I have always loved the rich Indian textile history and eye of colour, and of course motif.  However since most of our fashions were woven to be draped, we had issues with more sculpted fashion which embroidery allowed us to do.  I have done jamewar saris on chiffon and used it as a basis for my digital prints as well. Next season, we are doing jamewar inspired embroideries with dull sequined borders.  The permutations and combinations are endless.

Kanni Badam Palla Shawl – Kashmir
Circa 1930’s
Image courtesy Saffronart

Q. To own and wear a shawl from Kashmir was a ‘fashion statement’ in 18th century Europe, and Empress Josephine is believed to have had an extensive collection. As a designer today, do you think traditional Indian textiles and techniques can be fashion forward?

Of course heritage can be fashion forward if worn in a contemporary way.  It is as much how you wear something as what you wear.  Attitude is so important.  We once cut up and draped a shawl from Punjab on Isabella Blow to make an asymmetrical draped shawl dress which looked amazing.  It’s how you pair things as well.  We find our own fashion forward.

Q. What are some of your favourite motifs from traditional Indian textiles?

Paisleys, florals and jaalis.  All incredible when layered.

Q. Which is your favourite Shawl from the November Carpets, Rugs and Textiles Auction?

I love the Kanni Jamewar – lot 66.  It is really beautiful with almost a tribal feel to the colours and the long central medallion motif.

Jamewar Kanni Shawl

Lot 66 – A JAMAVAR KANNI SHAWL, Early 20th Century, Approx. 10ft 6in x 4ft 4in (325.1 x 134.6 cms), Pashmina wool
Image courtesy Saffronart

Of Carpets and Textiles

Sneha Sikand of Saffronart on Jenny Housego’s engaging and interactive talk on carpets and textiles

Jenny Housego speaking on Carpets at Saffronart, Delhi
Image credit: Saffronart

New Delhi: What was planned as a small and intimate gathering of people collected to hear Jenny Housego speak of her long association with carpets and textiles, became an evening of much interaction between the audience and a select number of experts present. The talk took place in conjunction with Saffronart’s upcoming Auction of Carpets, Rugs and Textiles. A textile historian, Jenny spoke about the years she spent in Iran, walking along a street full of carpet shops and studying the techniques and designs unique to every region within the country, and eventually writing a book titled ‘Tribal Rugs of Iran’.

Carpets and Shawls on display at Saffronart, Delhi
Image credit: Saffronart

The auction collection includes early twentieth century tribal carpets, city carpets, kilims and runners from Iran, Afghan rugs, Kashmiri jamavar shawls and jail carpets from Agra and Amritsar among others. The ‘jail carpet’ was a topic of much discussion. Historically said to have started as a reformatory task for prisoners in these regions, weavers were actually brought from Persia to train these inmates in the art of carpet making.

Also discussed were the difference in motifs found in tribal carpets as opposed to city carpets from Persia. While tribal carpets used more geometric patterns and even the animals and objects depicted were angular, city carpets on the other hand were more floral and bright.

Jenny also spoke about the extensive trade links between countries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which led to the increase in the variety of carpets available within India. The carpets, rugs and textiles are currently on view at the Saffronart Delhi and Mumbai spaces. The auction will take place on 27-28 November, 2012.

View the catalogue here

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