I have fallen in love with mirror work, also known as “Sheesha” (Persian) or “Abhala Bharat” (Hindi, Gujarati) embroidery. There’s something simultaneously whimsical and technically serious about it. (“mirrors, colors, amazing! … how did they make this magnificent thing..?”)
It was inherited from Iran during the Mughal reign in the 17th century, then brought to India by travelers. Essentially, mirror work has been around for a while and has only gotten more precise and beautiful over time. It’s *all* done by hand - seemingly effortless to the women creating it and mind-blowingly intricate to the rest of us.
It’s cool. Show-stopping, eye-catching cool. I’ll be using some of it in the collection- although my greatest challenge is incorporating it as a chic and contemporary element rather than an ethnic kitsch. Walking that line is difficult for all designers- where to find the magic crossroads of respecting heritage, not appropriating, all while appealing to western sensibilities (not creating literally ethnic garments)
Now that I’m living in India I notice my tastes changing towards what is commonly worn here. I’m not in Delhi, or Mumbai, I’m in Ahmedabad. It’s not a city, not a village, has young in people in college but no “business/young professional” culture. It’s mostly families. The Ahmedabad vibe is sweet, deeply spiritual, and the fashion is traditional with a twist of slight modernity - but I wouldn’t say I’ve seen much denim or, really, anything that’s not a kurti or saree silhouette. I thought India was like this all over, until I arrived in Mumbai to a mishmash of Zara, ASOS and a slight nod to ethnic wear by means of handicraft accessories. (And there I was, the white girl rocking a traditional dupatta/kurti combo in a cafe full of RL black label blazers and distressed denim bootcuts). I ordered pancakes and hash browns, American status reclaimed.
Dupatta and Kurti #onfleek in Mumbai
Within the next week I will visit tankshall street in the old city, known for its mirror work as well as various other handicrafts and markets to source materials. It’s short walk from where I am living now on Gheekanta street in Choti Hamam ni Pole. (The cutest, strangest, craziest, most lovely/lively place I have ever resided. I include Chinatown NYC in this assessment.)
New 'hood, new love <3