Beauty and the Beast

Handloom brand Shanti Banaras shapes a creative corridor to drive home the urgency of tiger conservation in the country.
The collection, comprising seven saris and 10 lehengas in pure silk, harnesses the might of the animal by mixing striped and floral motifs through jewelled tones and treasured techniques.
The collection, comprising seven saris and 10 lehengas in pure silk, harnesses the might of the animal by mixing striped and floral motifs through jewelled tones and treasured techniques.

For Khushi Shah, founder of legacy label Shanti Banaras, crafting her latest collection, RoaR, is a natural progression of the brand ethos: celebrating India’s rich culture through finely woven saris, and empowering its close-knit weaver community. Centred around the endangered tiger, the range highlights how the shrinking spaces and overcrowded cities are chomping away at the natural habitat of the national animal. Not too dissimilar is the grim reality of handloom weavers, who are staring at an uncertain future because of the onslaught of power looms and machine-made textiles.

“The most challenging part about RoaR was defining a clear and compelling creative direction for the collection and campaign,” says Shah, adding that the idea was to juxtapose the geometrics of the tiger’s anatomy with the traditional patterns of the Banarasi weave. The result is a beautiful symphony between the collection and the articulate art direction of Pranoy Sarkar, who has given a startling life to the range through his photography.  

Comprising seven saris and 10 lehengas in pure silk, RoaR epitomises the might of the beast in its natural habitat by mixing striped and floral motifs in jewelled tones. Shah has especially revived the traditional technique of badia. “The textile craft, indigenous to Rajasthan, uses slabs of metal that are melted and pierced through steel sheets before being drawn into fine wires,” she explains, adding, “The ductility of the resultant badia wire lends itself to the intricacy of zardozi, making every creation a sheer work of art.”

Exploding in bolts of rich purples, deep blues and brooding oranges, the collection shimmers in a silvery sheen. Why silver and not gold as is traditional with Banarasi? “Silver thread work brings in a more contemporary and subtle appearance. Its versatility makes it easier to pair the pieces with a multitude of colours and fabrics,” says the founder.

RoaR is also an example of fashion and CSR moving hand in hand; Shanti Banaras will contribute a part of its proceeds from the collection to Baavan, a wildlife conservation trust, and named after a tigress that lived in Panna National Park in Madhya Pradesh in the 1990s and early 2000s; the markings above her eyes could be read as a ‘5’ and a ‘2’.

“The trust is committed to protecting the interests of the forest ecosystem. Their emphasis is on scientific research that can enhance the understanding of India’s flora and fauna and on promoting wildlife conservation in association with the communities living in and around protected areas,” says Shah. She adds that the idea of RoaR is to prod one to introspect through the eloquence of craftsmanship that makes the symmetry and lithe grace of the tiger come alive with every creation.

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The New Indian Express
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