The ITC collection has been lovingly built up over the decades, including antique Zardozi, Karchopi, Jamawars, Kalamkari, Brocades. This private collection reflects sarees, cushions, masnads, men’s angrakkhas, decorative accents.
They reflect an earlier lifestyle of the nawabs, the royalty and well-healed. The use and the theme and emphasis on gold embellishment is a reflection on what gold conveyed about the person possessing and wearing these things, and their power and authority, sending a clear message about status.
Gold also had a pragmatic element, instead of the usual silver with wrapped or dipped in gold metal yarn, in these cases beaten sheets of pure gold would be put through wires to pliably use for textile embellishment.
The designs show a fundamentally Indian aesthetic which kept expanding its lexicon of motifs influenced from the West, our neighbours Persia and then the eastern Silk Route taking us through Asia and Europe.
In sarees we see this influence through 1930 and 40s, in home textiles and collectibles one sees the European influence in thread work done in Kashmir, and Jamawar shawls made for the Indian connoisseurs, adapted to be European designs to be more attractive to home customers. The zamindars of West Bengal played a massive role in honing these designs due to their deep pockets.
This collection like many other of its ilk reflect and preserve skills, techniques and art which really cannot be replicated today. The sheer materials needed, both in terms of the yarn are not possible, hand-spun weaving of the kind has all but vanished, with such minute details for making such products.
The actual technical gymnastics of making something like these, the worksman today do not have the knowledge, skills and patience needed for the intensive labour. These therefore came from guild patronages for specific royal houses and families, the spaces don’t exist any longer.
Let’s remember patronage also primes from demand - in our current impatient world, one wonders if anyone is willing to pay the costs, or prefers the aesthetics and waiting for years for them to be prepared, with the willingness to make them heritage and passed on through the journeys generations.