Tucked away in the bylane of Shahpur Jat, New Delhi, is a quaint store on the first floor, Olivia Dar. An eponymous contemporary bohemian luxury label was born in 2011. This labour of love originated from the lady’s travels and her desire to share the traditional artisanal crafts of India and Central Asia. Earlier one knew of her women’s accessories but today its her chic bomber jackets and upcycled gypsy vintage dresses which are creating ripples in the West.
Since centuries, being on the crossroad of different civilizations, the Silk Route has connected Muslims with the people of Europe, India, and China. Taking a cue from this confluence of cultures and her favourite French designer Isabel Marant who beautifully incorporates the Ariana aesthetics in her clothing; Olivia gets the original embroideries (ethically sourced from Afghanistan) appliquéd on crepe silk or cotton. Later these are stitched with her tweaks by the artisans at her studio. Her choicest finds make the clothing one of a kind, and so is numbered. (It takes nearly 3-4 days for one piece to be ready.)
Ariana was the Latinized term for Ancient Greek which includes modern-day Afghanistan, east and southeast Iran, most of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, south Uzbekistan and extending till the Indus River in Pakistan. Its main ethnic and regional groups such as Baluchis, Hazaras, Kabulis, Kandaharis, Nuristanis, Pashtuns, Tajiks, Turkmens and Uzbeks have their own embroidery styles. Clothing for women is made elaborate and colourful, but the best embroidery I was told is found on men’s garments, which is done with subdued colours in Kandahar. Taking advantage of her taste and exposure to great textiles, the needlework sourced by Olivia must take several months to a year. Its saddening to hear that like other handicrafts of this world, this too is degenerating due to technology interventions. All these facts make her capsule collection of clothes more fascinating.
Born in Italy, grew up in England and shunts between Paris-where her parents live, and New Delhi where she stays with her husband. Even though this cosmopolitan creative had studied cinema, but under her mother’s influence of high-end textiles and grandmother’s liking for embroidery, her interest in them grew. Then at some point when she was commissioned to get embroidery done for Christian Lacroix-a French luxury brand, she visited Jaipur, and from then on there has been no looking back.
As a collector of textiles and a keen photographer big on travel, she would ideally take the train to experience the change in landscapes. Also admires the work of Indian designers – Pero, Manish Arora, Abraham and Thakore and Rashmi Varma to name a few.
“Let’s be naughty and save Santa the trip.”