Gaurang first conceptualised his textile design journey sitting in his father’s small store that dealt with matching blouses in Basheerbagh at the age of eight. His fascination for colour and design started there.
Hyderabad: Utilising his weavers’ spirit and creative energy, self-taught textile designer and revivalist Gaurang Shah from Hyderabad, has created fortunes for over 8 00 weavers and 600 craftsmen from across India when their motivation was fading away and they almost wanted to quit their weaving jobs. Today, the wages of the Khadi Jamdani weavers have gone up to few lakhs from few hundreds they were earning few years ago because of his efforts.
In almost three years, Gaurang has initiated a Jamdani wave with his nature-inspired design, making an economic impact in the villages of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kashmir and Bangladesh, following his vision to make Indian weaving popular. Within Telangana, he has employed Ikkat and Gadwal weavers in Gadwal and few villages near Hyderabad. He is also fusing different yarns for creating new outfits.
Gaurang first conceptualised his textile design journey sitting in his father’s small store that dealt with matching blouses in Basheerbagh at the age of eight. His fascination for colour and design started there. He did an interior designing course later on. And after the road widening that happened in Basheerbagh in 1998, his father’s store moved to Begumpet.
As he grew up, he felt that women will be keen to move beyond georgette and chiffons sarees if they offered with alternative fabric, textures and patterns. His vision was to create sarees made in traditional ‘Jamdani Weaves’ on hand-woven fabric and implying eco-friendly techniques such as use of natural dyes, giving a modern twist to India’s traditional fabrics.
The designer reached several milestones, including global recognition for winning the best Indian weaves designer award at Lakme Fashion Week winter fest in 2012. He has reached this stage by learning lessons in the field, hard work, and patience. There were times he says that his almirah was overflowing with no customers, today customers wait patiently for his collection and no time his almirah is ready for fresh stock.
After his college education, he travelled the length and breadth of the country and convinced Jamdani weaver families that there is potential for their craft if they are willing to change. Jamdani is a brocaded fabric woven with discontinuous extra weft yarns.
“I gave the confidence to the weavers that my designs will change the course of their life,” Gaurang says. They were ready. Today, after over a decade he has built the finest team. He gives yarns to weavers going by the seasonal demand so that they have year-long work and have sustainable activity.
Gaurang, who is on the Board of Governors at NIFT, is known for bringing artisan diversity. His weavers have the ability to integrate and create new forms of weaving from different parts of India all at one locale.
Along with the Crafts Council of Telangana, Gaurang presented ‘Kausalyam 2016’- a high-end couture show of designers and master craftsmen who work closely with the weavers at the grass root level.
Way back in 2001,when the traditional handlooms were fading in to an oblivion, due to declining patronage and an onslaught of growing popularity for embroidered-sarees like georgettes and chiffons, weaver communities were mired in debt traps, uncertainty and hunger deaths. Gaurang took up the challenge of reviving the traditional handlooms and bringing them back in vogue. It took two painstaking years to regain the popularity for the handlooms.
He went to looms to understand how the graphs are laid. By 2002, he came out with certain designs. It took a while to start selling the sarees. By 2007-2008, there was recession. Later on, new avenues were explored by bringing in more weavers. Demand started picking up in Mumbai and Hyderabad. Designer sarees were much sought after. He started showcasing his handloom sarees and took part in several national and international shows (including Singapore, London, Nairobi and US).
“My design challenges the weaver. It takes a minimum of 5 to 6 months to weave a saree,” Gaurang says. He has a hard task every time to motivate his weavers. He adds, “Unless I challenge them with new designs and the economic potential their work has globally, I foresee the art of hand woven fabric fading away, which is very disheartening for a designer like me, as I love Indian weaves and I am confident it has fine potential to become a global trendsetter in the years to come. I am known for my colours, design and fabric. The fabric that I use is the key differentiator. Buyers use their sarees for several years.”
In January 2012, Gaurang opened his own label ‘Gaurang’, a premium high-end couture store in the upmarket Jubilee Hills area in Hyderabad. Today the brand ‘Gaurang’ has stores in Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Chennai. In 2015 alone, he opened five stores. He opened store in New Jersey in 2017.
There are eight stores operational now. Gaurang will be opening his store in Dubai and London (July) this year. He plans to have 4-5 new stores in the US by 2020.