To mark 15 years of their label Jade, designers Monica Shah and Karishma Swali—known for their use of traditional designs in contemporary silhouettes—wanted to raise more awareness around the craft communities of the country.
That's why the Grassroot Artisans Project, an initiative dedicated to artisan-designer collaboration, was born. As part of the project, the designers have collaborated with six craft communities from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Punjab, to create a contemporary luxury festive line. Comprising crop tops, jackets, overlays and pants, the collection showcases intricate techniques such as batik dyeing and kantha embroidery from West Bengal, bandhani from Kutch and soof embroidery from Palanpur, Gujarat. These techniques and silhouettes were selected based on their uniqueness and potential for bridging traditional with modern design, inform the designers. The textiles, which form the canvas, include pattu shawls from Barmer, Kanjeevaram from Salem, and Ikat from Pochampally.
“These collaborations are extremely immersive, and have given us the opportunity to dive deep to the source to make these crafts relevant to modern times while also retaining their artistic DNA," says Shah. “It's been a shared journey of mutual learning, respect, and inspiration. The artisans' expertise has added depth and cultural significance to our designs. This project helps us bridge the gap between heritage and today's fashion.”
The designers have also collaborated with fashion and design school Istituto Marangoni in Mumbai, as part of which select students from the design institute have been given the opportunity to accompany the label (its parent company, Chanakya School Of Craft, often collaborates with global brands like Dior and Yves Saint Laurent) on its journey to different craft clusters, introducing a new generation of design students to traditional crafts of the country.
“The students get to witness these crafts at their origins and understand the finer nuances behind each technique. Their interactions offered them a whole new perspective on what goes behind handcrafted luxury, and they certainly came back feeling inspired to blend their fresh perspectives with traditional techniques,” says Shah.
Her tip to include traditional crafts in a modern wardrobe: Start with statement pieces like embroidered jackets, handwoven sarees, or embellished accessories. “These can be paired with everyday outfits to create a fusion of contemporary and traditional.”
Dhara Vora Sabhnani is a Mumbai-based writer.