The story of the Parsi “ Garas” and the trademark embroidery is a one as colorful as varied in its rich past. The beautiful nature of one of the most ornate forms of threadwork, detailing and decoration goes back to influences that has borrowed from China, Europe and India to create a form that has crossed multiple cultural boundaries. One of the foremost designers who has recreated the Gara heritage and reinvented with it in many ways is Ashdeen Lilaowala, someone I am proud to call a friend.
“Legend has it that Parsis, fleeing Persia to avoid persecution at the hands of Muslim invaders, found refuge in Sanjan in India in the 8th or 10th Century. As they settled across Gujarat and western India, many Parsis ventured into sea trade with Chinese merchants. Business, largely in opium, meant Parsi men often travelled and stayed in China. When they returned home, they brought back six yards of fabric, embroidered on all four sides, as gifts for their women. But contrary to popular belief, the gara is not entirely a Chinese creation.
“Gara is the result of an inter-cultural amalgamation,” says Dr Shernaz Cama. The director of Unesco Parzor Foundation along with Delhi-based textile and fashion designer Ashdeen Lilaowala, has been researching the history and origins of the gara for the past 12 years. “The silk fabric was certainly from China as was the craftsmanship, but the embroidery and the motifs were heavily influenced by Iran’s Zorastrian and by India’s Hindu cultures. Eventually, it also made space for European influences.
Gara is a kind of embroidery, originally done on saris and primarily comprising the khakha stitch (also called the Forbidden knot), the French knot and long- and short-stitches. The work is extremely precise and fine with the stitches done very close to each other. Common gara motifs include birds (especially roosters, parrots and peacocks), flowers (peonies, roses, lilies), pagodas and dragons.“
The Design project here showcases garments that are all as varied in the generation of the Idea of each ensemble. The play of the motifs are from the essential “ florals “ and then also from the “ storks/ birds” that are seen often in the representation in this form of motif palette. Another reason for the project also was to showcase the application of this form of detailing seen mainly on women’s garments especially the saree actually in the context of Men. Nehru jackets, kurtas to a detailed sherwani only celebrate how universal this language of detail can be. Showcased across two different royal themed photoshoots I hope I have been able to do justice to what is a craft that is as timeless as historical.
In the Details
Jeweled Mojris: Mayyur Girotra | Jewllery: Personal Collection
A chance accident led to creation of this outfit. Initially a pure black ensemble the Kurta and Dhoti was meant to be worn with shawls and sherwanis or jackets. A minor burn caused by a hot iron on the kurta led to a damage that needed to mended and put my mind into a fix. Rather than having it just repaired I too this opportunity to have these beautiful Parsi storks appliqued as a design onto the garment to create a statement piece which was guided by placements of the birds in flight. The floral shaded stole is combined with the look to create this overall monochromatic outfit which is one now one of my favourites.
Kurta: Ekmatra | Trousers: Zara | Nehru Jacket: Fabindia | Embroidery: Ashdeen
Mojris: Vanson | Jewelry: Damini, Chennai
A Pure white ensemble is a look one cannot go wrong with. For those formal occasions in the spring this is a look that one can easily wear to any formal event. The point of attention is the wreath of floral gara embroidery on the back with florals and the bird which is picked in vivid pastel colors against the rich rust background. The echo of the birds is seen in the peacock earrings and temple styled jewelry which compliments the ensemble.
Photography , Shashank SK Tyagi | Venue, The Perfect Location Faridabad | Styling/ Curation, Subhashish Mandal
Makeup by Akansha
Sherwani: IncheeTape by Purvi and Sharad | Drape Pants: Tarun Tahliani |
Sherwani Embroidery: Ashdeen | Kurta: Fabindia
Shoes: Knight & Bond, London | Jewelry: Personal Collection
A Tribal Price look herein was celebrated in this rich ornamented outfit with the large scale floral embroidery patterns. Inspired by a contemporary European design, the look was applied onto this asymmetric placement on the jacket front, back and sleeves to create a dramatic yet controlled impact. Set off with the royal accessories, makeup and the turban the focus of the handiwork of the design remained in all the designs.
Photography, Suraj Mohan Das, Lipy Yadav | Venue, Tijara Fort, Neemrana Properties | Styling/Curation, Subhashish Mandal | Makeup by Rolika Prakash |Model, Aliona Shavel & Subhashish Mandal
I hope that through this story I am able to showcase the accessibility of how this heritage design can be applied to Mens wardrobes and curated to create that very special look that is worth keeping and sharing.