The design magnum opus Ehsaas explores creating an array works of wearable art by juxtaposing paintings on to fabric to create ties and unisex stoles.
From the time when blue, black, grey, brown, khaki and white were all the colours that formed the male wardrobe repertoire, men’s fashion has indeed come a long way. But, having said that, it is always far more challenging to design outfits for men that not only look dignified and elegant, but also make a style statement. In the festival season, a musician friend complained to me that while we women have ample ways of wearing beautiful clothes, for men — even artistes who are known for unconventional choices of colours — there was not enough choice of styles.
I reminded him that when I was designing Ehsaas, I couldn’t find even one senior musician who owned a formal western suit! So much so, that when ties had to be modeled, young santoor exponent Abhay Rustom Sopori came to my rescue with a suit that he owned.
My design magnum opus Ehsaas explores the essentially-male bastion of designing for men with an array works of wearable art by juxtaposing paintings on to fabric to create ties and unisex stoles. In this case, combining art with fashion is indicative and representative of modern aesthetics that as much define the maturity of a people as it does art.
About 50 paintings of five highly respected contemporary artists — Shridhar Iyer, Niren Sengupta, Manisha Gawade and Sanjay Bhattacharya and I — are the links that bring them together. The paintings have been designed and juxtaposed on specific places of wearable art and then transposed on to hand-woven fabric to create contemporary couture.
The most amazing point was when the greats of other arts wore these works, their already special aura bound them together as if the shared heritage of the arts enveloped them. Hindustani vocalist Madhup Mudgal said, “It is this ananda or bliss that we all experience when we are creating ourselves, and it is what we share with our audiences when on stage. In a way, we are sharing the creative bliss of the painters’ ananda when we wear these.”
For santoor maestro Bhajan Sopori, it is the feeling of the collective binding of the arts that touched him. “Like the seven swaras, the seven chakras and the seven colours, Ehsaas captures the vibrations and depth of these in the most beautiful way with great understanding.
“It is a sangam or convergence of the arts and artists both, and that is what makes it so exciting and the energy so infectious,” said Dhrupad exponent Wasifuddin Dagar. The veritable epitome of dance, Birju Maharaj, felt that every person is imbued with colour by the universal power, and that it was up to us to feel it and revel in it. “Just like when many colours meld into each other, a new colour is created, we create rang or colour of bhava or emotions with our movement, mudras and eyes. In the same way, this coming together has spread the colours so magnificently that it breathes like one Ehsaas,” he says.
“Ehsaas is an ephemeral experience, but we wanted to capture the many moments of Ehsaas so that we could savour them yet again. The result is Ehsaas,” said Rajesh Tailang, the director of the film made specially on the project. The film will be screened in New Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Bahrain and London over the next few months. “As an artist wearing a painter’s wearable art and walking on stage is totally different story. The stage is not a new space for me and here the actor in me helped me in syncing with the feel of the painting,” said Rajesh.
The paintings of these artists have been digitally reproduced in sections of the stoles and ties to create limited edition couture for men. The stoles allow for more space to see a larger part of the painting and can even be framed like a painting, serving a dual purpose. The fabric used is gently textured silk and tussar that comes closest to a canvas texture.
In the ties, the selection of the section to be reproduced is naturally pithier and the impact is stunning. The ties all come with matching pocket squares. The fabric is a very fine quality of satin silk. The finish is to international standards. It was a bigger challenge to find artistes who were willing to sport ties. Most didn’t even own formal suits, forget about wearing one.
So I had to ask the photographer Avinash Pasricha, who has virtually chronicled performing arts in the last six decades of his association with the arts, and the young and dashing santoor player, Abhay Rustom Sopori, to sport a tie. Both of them happily agreed.
While Avinash was a picture of dignified grace, Abhay set many a hearts aflutter with his swag, as did the theatre actor and television personality Sunit Tandon with his sophisticated élan in his perfectly cut suit. Art gallerist Mahesh Bansal, who too wore a tie, said, “I am surrounded by art all the time but wearing art was a first experience that was truly unforgettable! An experience that is inexplicable in words!”
As the painters too walked the ramp, their quiet confidence of having created the paintings that got translated into the pieces wearable art and their conviction in their own art was something very special and set them apart with great poise and self belief. And the ehsaas of Ehsaas lingers.
Dr Alka Raghuvanshi is an art writer, curator and artist, and can be contacted at alkaraghuvanshi@ yahoo.com