An antique edge

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By DESIGNERS ARE USING JAMEVAR TO GIVE THEIR OUTFITS AN EXTRA DRESSY FEEL, SAYS ARUNDHATI BASU
  • Published 1.02.09
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Whoever said off with the old, on with the new, most certainly never heard of the jamevar. It could well be the family heirloom, a coveted hand-me-down and a piece of fabric that can make the wearer a party’s showstopper (no exaggeration there). For, with the jamevar you never have to try too hard.

Sadly, not everyone can shell out a small fortune to acquire a jamevar. But all is not lost if you can’t buy the shawl, for the designer brigade has set out to bring you the jamevar this winter in some form or the other. A trim here, a collar there and sometimes, more generously, an entire dupatta border.

Some designers are actually putting scissors to antique pieces and using them as detailings. But those who loathe the thought of cutting up the grand textile are resorting to the quick-fix machine-made jamevars spun in the mills of Kathmandu and Ludhiana. Yet others are replicating the traditional jamevar embroidery as prints and using them to style outfits.

But there’s good news for die-hard jamevar fans. Designers are now sourcing authentic jamevars from Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh.

Designer Shantanu Goenka has no qualms in using the real thing. Antique jamevar shawls are being cut up in his studio and the intricate paisley patterns are being transferred to borders and corners of dupattas and waistcoat collars.

“It worked very well for the Indian, French and British aristocracy during the Colonial period when women loved dressing up in jamevar gowns and draping jamevar shawls to complete the elaborate look,” says Goenka, whose latest line is high on the vintage look thanks to the jamevar.

The look works perfectly for those who do not like much bling in their outfits. “The brilliant tones of the embroidery that’s worked on fabric bases in gold, turquoise and emerald green create the feel, the warmth and richness of the season,” adds Goenka.

Meanwhile designers Rahul Jain and Gunjan Arora of Sirali are detailing wedding ensembles with piping and borders from antique shawls that are sometimes damaged. “But however damaged they may be, we do intricate patchwork by putting a cloth over the ruined portions and sometimes even make scarves out of them,” says Jain.

The other glamourous cousin of the jamevar — the jamevar brocade — is also doing the rounds of the fashion circuit. Ekta Jaipuria of Ekru sources these jamevars that are embellished with gold weaving from old heritage houses in Jamnagar in Gujarat. Jaipuria makes blouses, saris and skirt hems brighter with trimmings, borders and piping of antique jamevars in fuchsia pinks, maroons and purples.

Ritu Kumar considers it sacrilege to ruin a jamevar by snipping it. She develops prints inspired by the curling vine and almond motifs of jamevar embroidery to embellish her jersey tees and tunics. She deviates from the traditional jamevar designs and infuses a liberal touch of booti work and geometric patterns in the same prints to leave her own distinct stamp on the jamevar-look garment.

“I do not want the garment to look like a shawl that’s been cut up,” she says. And because she does a jamevar print-inspired range, Kumar’s collection starts at merely Rs 400 and goes up to Rs 2,000.

Kumar points out that the world knows the paisley print (that kidney-shaped pattern) as being derived from the town of Paisley in Scotland. But, it’s actually an indigenous pattern developed in Kashmir.

Designer Vidhi Singhania, who’s working to revive Indian handlooms recommends buying a lighter fabric like the taafta (a finer quality of the pashmina) and reinforcing its borders with machine-made jamevars. She says: “One can also convert them into potli bags, scarves and other accessories.” Singhania herself teams her jamevar shawls with saris in solid colours to offset the beauty of the textile.

Other designers too have turned to the jamevar for inspiration. Another handloom revivalist, Anuradha Vakil, plays with the jamevar motifs and designs. The costume designer of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya likes to stay away from the usual jamevar paisleys but develops her own textiles with geometrical motifs. “I use the jamevar that I develop as lining for my jackets or on the collars,” she says.

Inspired by the intricacy of its floral and paisley designs, designer Varija Bajaj has recreated prints in her bridal line. She too refuses to cut up the real thing. “This way the wedding ensembles — the salwar and sherwanis — can be teamed with the shawls that people own,” she points out.

Be warned that the investment is hefty. Goenka’s prices are on request while Jain says they often sell their jamevar embellished ensembles for as high as Rs 25,000 apiece. However, there are affordable tags too. For instance, Jaipuria sells her real jamevar-touched blouses and skirts between Rs 5,000 and Rs 7,000.

But looking fabulous never did come cheap, did it?