Indian designer Kshitij Jalori, presenting three artistic collections, gives ample display of his training in textiles in his first solo exhibition. And offers a buyback clause!
By: Suman Tarafdar
Posted on: August 7, 2018
The mellifluous tapestry, the intricate weaves inspired from India’s rich textile traditions, the museum-like glass showcase settings - it would be hard not to be lulled into thinking this is an art show, an homage to a veteran skilled craftsman.
Meet Kshitij Jalori from Ajmer, Rajasthan – a fresh name in India’s oft-monotonous fashion landscape, in his first solo show at the launch of his eponymous label. Exhibiting three of his collections at Delhi’s Bikaner House - Gul Bulbul, Pakhi Badi and Coromandel Colony, the collections highlight the usage of traditional Benarasi textile, heirloom fabrics accentuated by exquisite embroidery and zari works. Saris, kurtas and lehengas are the stars of this show, and are paired with clean-cut footwear, luxurious within with linen lining, also designed by Mr. Jalori.
At first impression, it’s all very old world – in a charming, captivating way – seeing the selection of colours (note the parchment pink, for example) or the motif designs. But the very young Mr. Jalori, 25, is passionate about the revival of age-old techniques and craftsmanship and aims to infuse Indian textiles with minimal chic approach through his label.
Indeed revivalism is fast picking up pace in India, with a number of designers exploring India’s rich traditions in textiles. While Ritu Kumar and Sabyasachi have established their credentials, newer names such as Gaurang or Raw Mango (Sanjay Garg’s label) are also getting recognised. Mr. Jalori is a welcome addition.
While his ensembles are occasion wear, he says he wants to move away from lehengas for weddings. “It’s for a bride everyday other than the d-day,” is how he describes the collection. “Also for red carpet events, high street events… it’s wearable, but it is luxury.”
“These are very traditional textiles. When I was in college, Zara, a high street fashion brand, came into the country. Even then I used to question the fact that why are Indian textiles never used internationally to create a modern, chic, smart silhouette and why would everyone use polyester or georgettes, but not our traditional textiles. They were always seen in dupattas, lehengas…last two to three years, we have seen a breakaway in that sort of trend. It has been in my mind for eight years now and I thought I should move ahead.”
The first collection - Coromandel Colony, is derived from his fascination for chintz fabrics. “A lot of elements have been picked up from chintz of Banaras,” he says, pointing to use of details of the weave. “They [weavers of the past] used to have a detailed approach to rendering the artwork. Earlier, each weave used to have a weave pattern conducive to that particular shape. Called urtu, it enhanced the value of the weave. The development of urtu has reduced significantly, the designs now being implemented in a twill or satin weave.” Observe closely, even each humble leaf in an elaborate ensemble has different weaves! Incidentally, the collection also refers to India’s colonial past, where chintz was developed and exported from the 16th century.
The ethereal handcrafted ensembles in both Coromandel Colony and the next collection, Pakhi Bari (house of birds) use urtu. “That is the kind of details I have tried to get out. It used to exist 50 years ago – there were patrons who would pay to get this thing done. Every fabric has taken six to eight months to develop as the crafting is very, very important.”
There are also some Kshitij Jalori Classic pieces. “Here, every kilogram of zari has 200 grams of silver… it is not high on gold as I am not keen on the yellowish hue of real zari – which has 250-300 grams of silver plus three to four grams of gold. This one has a gram of gold, just to get a slight tint, more of a brass silver look.” The ensembles, in Mashru, are resplendent in red.
Path of progress
Born to a chemical engineer father and a mother who has interest in music, culture and poetry, Mr. Jalori has always had a creative bent of mind and an entrepreneurial spirit. After completing his schooling at Mayo College, Ajmer, he got his bachelor’s degree in Textile Design from NIFT, Delhi – he missed a place in the more sought-after fashion course by a whisker, he recollects. Textile design opened up vistas however, and immersing himself in, he absorbed the nuances of textile traditions during his training. Before launching his eponymous label, he worked with leading design houses such as Sabyasachi, Péro, Fabindia, Dastkar, Rita Kapur Chisti and Shades of India.
In 2016, he set up the Kshitij Jalori Design Studio that looks at diversified verticals such as textile revival of ancient handloom woven fabrics, vintage embroidery and surface developments, print and artwork developments and fashion styling and apparel development.
Jalori considers himself to be a preservationist who explores India’s rich textile traditions, with an effort to make it relevant to contemporary times. Interestingly, his creations come with a buyback clause! “After a few years, sometimes a consumer wants to discard a certain piece, I am more than happy to buy it back as I know the quality I am offering,” he says. A believer of sustainability, this is part of his efforts towards the preservation and promotion of heirloom pieces. He plans to work with other textile sectors as well, including Chikankari, Pashmina and Jamdani among others.
Mr. Jalori himself is a huge buyer of old classics. “We are lucky as a generation that we can still see pieces like that. For the next generation, I feel I have to preserve, redevelop, come together with a collection that is a little bit of the past with a bit of the present to create a new identity, something future generations can look at, to see what India is capable of.”
Conscious of quality, the appreciation of which he credits to training and some of those he worked with, he says he is very quality driven. “Fabric quality, zari quality, weight, structure – everything has to be looked at. And yet design is essential – because of an art factor. And of course, for art to survive, economics has to work.”
Currently, his collections are entirely made to order, and not online. “For my clothes, the touch and feel is important, though economics may make me go online,” he says. And no, he isn’t a ‘ramp’ person either for the same reason – people need to feel his creations. The attention to detail is remarkable as well - just observe the old world boxes the saris are packed in!
With a fashion vocabulary that is chic, layered and visually stunning, Indian consumers look more than likely to develop a feel, an affinity for Kshitij Jalori.