Grey is the new black for me. It’s very much in vogue,” says Sarita Handa, textile designer, as she shows us around her office space in Gurgaon, which houses her latest collection of furnishings in the very-much-in-vogue grey colour. Dressed in blush pink shirt and white trousers — an attire that is a departure from her favoured saris — Handa is a powerhouse of energy that belies her age.
With 25 years as a textile and interior designer behind her, Handa is pretty much the authority on the subject. She is commemorating her long innings with a special exhibition titled, “Sarita Handa: 25 years & Beyond”, where she has brought together her love for saris and art under one umbrella. “My love for my saris had always inspired us to do a fresh collection each year. I have always loved art and even painted when I was younger. I thought, why not put art and textiles together,” says Handa.
The exhibition will showcase vintage textiles that have been a part of Handa’s company along with artworks by five artists who have created projects using scrap fabrics and recycled yarn from her workshops. “I think it is connected to spirituality that I think is innate,” adds Handa.
Keeping in line with that sentiment, Satish Gupta, sculptor, has created installations that reflect upon his constant engagement with Zen philosophy and mysticism. Designer duo, Gunjan Arora and Rahul Jain, are using traditional Indian mudras and motifs and have woven them with recycled yarn. Arrti Mansinghka, who was the first to come on board, has tracked the trajectory of the Ganga through patchwork textiles, and contemporary artist Jeevan Xavier has focused on the intricate handiwork used for embroidery and sewing for a video project.
“I never thought we would be ushering in our 25 year celebration when we started out in 1992. I had always been fascinated by art and design. I remember being hugely dissatisfied for about three-four years before I started out my own company. I was with a big company that worked in textiles. I would come back home and scribble in a notepad about the things that I wanted to accomplish. Then, when I was 45, I just took the plunge,” says Handa. She still has many of her old notepads with her.
Sarita Handa, the eponymous company, made a name for itself for adapting traditional Indian weaving and embroidery techniques and using them in contemporary designs. The establishment started out with exporting its line, and has now entered the Indian retail space as well. “We made sure that, even when we started, we used 100 per cent cotton and 100 per cent silk. Machine-made fabrics and synthetics were something that irritated both me and my mother to a huge degree,” says Suparna Handa, daughter of Sarita, who sees to the day-to-day workings of the company.
“But the element of hand is what we think is the highlight of our design philosophy. We work closely with our design team, which is like a production team, our karigars. We all function as one unit. It’s all painstakingly labourious. We use a lot of zardozi , but we don’t use it in gold or silver thread. We use it in a contemporary way. There is a lot of hand quilting and dori work on our designs. We will use something like the French knot, which is very opulent, but we will make sure that the colours and the yarns are very subtle,” adds Suparna.
The exhibition is a stepping stone for The Sarita Handa Art Foundation, which is very close to the senior Handa. There are also plans for a project for education of the girlchild. “I never look back and think, oh 25 years have passed. I am looking ahead to the 25 years to come,” says Handa.