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A Decade of Design

In a glittering fashion showcase, the sisters-in-law turned business partners presented a 10-year commemorative collection titled “Oneness”, an embodiment of their label’s belief in creating “everyday couture”.

Written by Kimi Dangor |
October 26, 2018 1:08:44 am
Fashion, oneness, french fashion, fashion designer, Indian craft, embroidery, Feminist, Vogue Women Of The Year,  Paris Fashion Week, Dior, Fendi, Valentino, Gucci, Alberta Ferretti          (From left) Karishma Swali, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Monica Shah; (top) models in outfits from the collection “Oneness”

ON TUESDAY evening, as designers Monica Shah and Karishma Swali of Jade took over the Crystal Room at The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai, in celebration of their couture label’s 10th anniversary, it marked the culmination of not just months of hard work and painstaking coordination, but also a decade of their creative partnership and artistic journey.

In a glittering fashion showcase, the sisters-in-law turned business partners presented a 10-year commemorative collection titled “Oneness”, an embodiment of their label’s belief in creating “everyday couture”. And seated in the front row was their guest of honour Maria Grazia Chiuri, artistic director of renowned French fashion house Christian Dior, also the woman who impressed upon the Jade duo the importance of creating luxury that is accessible and can be enjoyed every day.

“Over the nearly 20 years that we’ve known her, Maria Grazia has helped us push our boundaries. She has always had an unwavering commitment to craftsmanship and the innate ability to be able to gauge a beautiful craft and then make it relevant — insert it into the everyday, not just something that lies in your wardrobe, meant only for special occasions,” says Swali.

The Mumbai-based designer duo’s association with Chiuri goes back two decades, since her stint as accessory designer at Fendi, thanks to their parent company Chanakya International Private Limited, an export house, which provides niche luxury embroidery and embellishment services for some of the world’s biggest haute couture labels, including Dior, Fendi, Valentino, Gucci and Alberta Ferretti. It was at Chanakya — founded by Swali’s father Vinod Maganlal Shah over three decades ago — that the two learnt the ropes of the luxury business and eventually ended up launching their own label in 2008.

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“We had the best artisans and master embroidery experts from all across the country at hand. So, we decided we wanted to offer that level of craftsmanship to the Indian market too,” says Shah.

Over the last decade, Jade has consolidated its position as a leading bridalwear brand known for its craftsmanship and intricate artistry. Sumptuous fabrics from Italy and France meet Indian craft, vegan saris get woven in Maheshwar, heavy zardozi embroidery gets a lighter modern makeover and intricate Kutchi embellishing and tie-dye techniques are translated to contemporary styles.

And the duo hope to extend their patriarch’s legacy of preserving and revitalising ancient craft techniques through their latest pet project, the Chanakya School of Hand Embroidery and Fine Crafts, which was born over a casual diner with Chiuri when she was in India two years ago. Finally put into action in January 2018, the institute has 100 women from areas like Dharavi and Mankhurd already undergoing training. “Embroidery has always been a male-dominated craft. So, we wanted to open up the avenue for women, especially those who come from low-income and challenging backgrounds, in order to allow them to learn this craft and eventually enable them to use it as a source of income. We’re not only teaching them embroidery techniques but also educating them about design, various types of embroideries and global culture, thereby opening the world up to them,” says Swali.

For now, the designers are happy to be spending a week with their mentor Chiuri. They will be travelling across the country, visiting craftspeople and identifying other women’s empowerment projects to collaborate on. “It’s been such an honour to have her with us. Not just for the creative genius that she is, but what she stands for as a human being — her values, ethos and fierce feminist stance. She is someone who really walks the talk,” says Swali.

A FEMINIST TALE

Fashion, oneness, french fashion, fashion designer, Indian craft, embroidery, Feminist, Vogue Women Of The Year,  Paris Fashion Week, Dior, Fendi, Valentino, Gucci, Alberta Ferretti          Maria Grazia Chiuri

IN 2016, when designer Maria Grazia Chiuri became the first woman to take over as the artistic director of the French fashion house Christian Dior, it was heralded as a ground-breaking moment.

For her Paris Fashion Week debut with Dior in September 2016, she presented her strident egalitarian manifesto with models wearing t-shirts proclaiming “We should all be Feminists” — the title of writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk — thereby making her mark. With eight years as co-creative director at Valentino, credited with turning the fortunes of the Italian label around, and a decade at Fendi as an accessory designer, where she was part of the team that created the iconic “baguette” bag, Chiuri is bona fide fashion royalty. Earlier this week, the 54-year-old Italian designer made a pit stop in Jaipur to inaugurate the Rajasthan office of the French Institute in India and The Textile Lab for Women, reportedly set up to empower and equip female artisans in the craft-rich state.

Chiuri, who is passionate about craft and how it can help bring about social change, brought up the subject close to her heart at the Jade anniversary celebrations too, where she spoke about the need to “maintain and pass on the tradition of craftsmanship on to the next generation”. On Saturday, Chiuri will receive the Global Icon of the Year Award at the Vogue Women Of The Year awards in Mumbai.

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