Carrying on with the Ahmedabad series is another under-the-radar label Usha Pasi. It too is doing applique but with a purely Indian take. The lady’s sublime taste is supported by her daughter Sukanya Pasi as she contributes to the clothing line being a fashion and accessory designer (check out the daughter’s traditional yet contemporary hair accessories which are quite eye catching).
So, in contrivance for my little black book I initiated an email conversation with Usha Pasi for .
MD: What is your family background?
UP: I belong to Banaras. My father was in the State Administrative Service. Due to his transfers, we moved around to different districts, exposing me to varied cultures. Moreover, I had grown up watching handicrafts being done in and around our ancestral homes – both maternal and paternal.
MD: When did you realize your creativity?
UP: Since childhood I was drawn to things that were handmade, using natural material. I developed a keen interest in interior design and home decor, that led me to explore cane and bamboo furniture, after marriage.
It happened while visiting Bareilly for the first time, when I saw cane furniture being made by a highly skilled artisan. He had dexterously smoothened a cane shaft on a rod and turned it into furniture. I was amazed by his deftness, and decided to buy a mini truckload of it to exhibit in Ambala, where we were posted. That was complete sell out!!!
Then we shifted to Mumbai. I contacted the artisans in Bareilly and started selling the same in the city of dreams. It gave me chance to work with many interior designers and export it too.
However, after that my husband got relocated to Ahmedabad. It became difficult to operate the workshop in Mumbai from here. We did try setting up the workshop here itself but that too didn’t work. At the same time our cane artisan also decided to move back to his home town due to family issues, that led to my business’ closure.
MD: Then, what were your reasons for choosing applique?
UP: Applique was initially practiced in villages to conserve fabrics. After we moved to Ahmedabad, I visited a community where this ancient Indian folk art was practiced. There I learnt it and was intrigued enough to take it further.
In 2004, I started designing Indian ensembles with finer fabrics like Organdie, Maheshwari, Chanderi, Mangalgiri etc. We experimented with delicate textiles that could be stitched underneath the main fabric. In sometime, after many trials of tissue, kota, zari, the sheer came into play in reverse applique.
If you notice in this collection, I’ve used Kota, which we later understood was very difficult to work with, as the cloth frays after being cut. But I am truly thankful to our artisans who’ve done a great job at handling the fabric.
MD: Whose work do you admire in our fashion industry or any other creative field and why?
UP: I admire Dhruv Singh’s label in the Indian fashion industry. He is a fine artist and designer. His attention to detail and representation of Indian crafts and culture is inspiring.
Besides, I’m an ardent fan of Munshi Premchand and Ismat Chughtai’s Hindi literature. The old world charm fascinates me, more so when we appreciate the grounded cultural ethos of rural India. Hence, I have visualized my photo shoots with these influences in mind, without doing away with a contemporary look.
Traditionally, applique in India was seen on ceremonial tents and umbrellas. The Darjis who’d earlier made religious wallart using this artwork further began doing it for the royals’, on their couture. Much later it became popular amongst the common man as it entered their wardrobes and homes. Interestingly, most of us were only aware of Rajasthani and Gujrati applique, but is evidently done in Bihar and Orissa, too. Though in each state it looks slightly different due to motifs and colours.
And sharing the same craft customarily is a part of Africa and Native Americans, while the American Colonial women took it up as spirited quilters.
To be well prepared for the upcoming festival season or weddings connect with Usha Pasi in advance.