What happens when two siblings with a common love for fashion come together? They create a unique collection that is modern and versatile, inspired by contemporary art, bold colour play and clean construction. The new spring-summer collection from Ekaya Banaras—the Arohi X Ekaya—is just that, and more.
While Palak Shah’s Ekaya Banaras label is known for its focus on timeless tradition, the contemporary touch is infused by her younger sister and new collaborator, Aarohi, who brings with her an academic experience from Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, and exposure to industry stalwarts such as Oscar de la Renta and White Label by Proenza Schouler. The Instagram page of her label—Arohi—is all about contemporary, experimental silhouettes, using handcrafted techniques.
“The drapes are very modern with structured vertical lines. The collection comprises experimental textiles and silhouettes keeping in mind the ever-growing demand for easy-to-wear modern saris and ready-to-wear clothing, combining craftsmanship and attention to detail,” says Palak.
It wasn’t really easy getting Aarohi on board, says the Ekaya Banaras CEO. At home with western, anti-fit designer wear, textile was a field she had not explored. So, Aarohi’s initial reaction to the suggested collaboration was an emphatic ‘no’. But the elder sibling would not give up so easily. After all, Ekaya loves to work with people who have never worked with textiles before, because as Palak believes, “When you create with a new form, you can have some excellent results.” It brings to mind the brand’s earlier collaboration with designer Masaba Gupta—Ekaya X Masaba—that burst forth with pop colours and kitschy motifs.
Palak knew that Aarohi’s design sensibilities would add the right edge to Ekaya’s existing line. And indeed, the results are extraordinary. The collection comprises experimental and youthful saris exuding an artful sense of texture and pattern. There are also timeless fluid silhouettes, hand-woven saris, chic suits, bias-cut skirts, and pop-coloured organza co-ord sets. Boasting vivid colours, the collection presents 25-30 pieces, including colourways.
But if you are looking for the trademark Ekaya flora and fauna, or even the traditional jangla work, you will be disappointed. The opulent Banarasi saris and rich brocades give way to a design vocabulary that is youth-centric. “It has a palette that the modern Indian woman will feel confident donning,” says Palak.So which is Palak’s favourite? “The saris in black and grey with vertical lines, and of course, the pop-coloured organza sets,” she says instantly. The fact that Aarohi is also a painter, imprinted her passion for colours onto the collection.
India’s first handloom luxury brand that presents some of the finest Banarasis from the craftsman’s repertoire, Ekaya comes with 120 years of legacy. Based on the principles of heritage and artisanship, the brand depends on traditional karigars and merges their expertise with the vision of designers to provide a new and fresh product range that stresses luxury and timelessness. “We try to bridge the gap between the weavers and the global market,” says the young CEO, who has collaborated with international luxury brands such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Missoni and Pierre & Daniel.
The pandemic has been harsh for these creators who weave magic into textiles. “Of course, it has been a very trying time. But as a design house, we decided to keep working remotely. This has added to a range of innovative designs that we will bring forward in the next few months,” the entrepreneur says, adding that innovation is what drives her. “Unless you keep reinventing yourself, patrons will lose interest in your products. You always have to be one step ahead,” she smiles. The brand is adapting traditions to suit the modern mindset. The gamble, clearly, is paying off.