The best ambassadors India has aren't always diplomats.
Like she did in Paris in July, talented designer Vaishali Shadangule toasted India by putting out a subtle yet effective celebrate-Hindustan message with her showing of Indian handloom and craft at Milan Fashion Week.
Her collection for Italian audiences, titled Ancestral Threads, was a reflection of her affection and passion for India's hand-weaving tradition.
"My goal was to give the wonderful Indian hand-weavings a universal language so they may compete on the world's most prestigious luxury venues," Vaishali says in a chat with Anita Aikara/Rediff.com.
The haughty Palazzo Giureconsulti, a 1562-built Milan palace that was once a bank and then a stock exchange, was transformed into a 21st century neoteric fashion venue, with models wafting down the narrow baroque corridors in Vaishali's breezy Indian dresses in timeless whites and off-whites, salmon pink, fuchsia, teal and midnight blue.
Nature served as a source of inspiration -- it is the "ultimate tying agent" for Vaishali.
"I enjoy trying new things," declares the designer, who believes in striving for perfection in everything she does. "I experiment with various silhouettes just as much as I do with various yarns. As the thread (which is frequently also handspun) is considerably more durable, hand-weaving enables for the use of a much wider variety of materials and blends than machine weaving."
Of late, Vaishali has been working quite a bit with delicate, soft Merino wool and hand-woven Pashmina with varying degrees of success. "Even in this collection, a lot of Merino wool was used because, when woven thinly on a handloom, it gives off a distinctively cool sensation."
Vaishali also made use of Kota doriya, the lightwoven fabric from Rajasthan, which allows for vibrant, dynamic colouring that evokes the feeling of spring and summer. Sticking firmly to the DNA of her label, she continued her courtship with sustainable materials, utilising only natural fibres. Her fabrics were also sourced from Karnataka, West Bengal and Maheshwar in Madhya Pradesh.
"The best weaves in the world come from India," she explains. "The nicest hand textures come from India. The best design in the world may also come from India. Without a doubt, we excel in the areas that the world is currently seeking: slow fashion, bespoke, sustainable (if we want), zero waste (the way of the Indian village), making a social effect, and creativity. Every region of India has a unique heritage and weave. They are all stunning and really different. They are India's true gems.
Vaishali adds: "Each weave also has a unique benefit when it comes to draping and making clothes. I virtually always resuscitate a new weave as part of my objective. The difficulty is that once revived, you cannot let it go, which is why there are a few pieces in each of the weaves that have already been revived in each of my collections."
Among her favourite Indian fabrics is Madhya Pradesh's finespun, often gold-embossed chanderi. "It was after witnessing the weavers in Chanderi (my village is quite close to it) knot their threads on the loom and miraculously create wonders that I realised the call, as I always saw my mother wearing it gracefully and comfortably.
"Khunn is another beloved weave of mine. I'm from Maharashtra (by ethnicity), where this weave is the most typical for market work on daily basis for women's shirts. I quickly understood this weave's potential and elegance if applied in a more contemporary manner."
Mellow Western classical music accompanied the models' walks down the ramp in Vaishali's poetic monochromatic pieces in hot summer tones.
Renaissance met Hindustani in these gossamery outfits, ideal for daytime dressing, with their slashed-looking sleeves and elegant cuffs and the necklines that appeared like built-in jewellery.
Hat tip to Meiji-era Japan? The cording technique offered a depth to an unconventional ensemble.
Excellent for getting into the mood of approaching autumn... Note how each look bore witness to the brand's commitment to sustainability and also brought Nature you might see in your backyard, or at a nearby park or woods, onto the runway.
Was she clad in sea foam? The ballerinas and hair accessories were charmingly colour-coordinated with the dress.
Vaishali, draped in a complicated pink sari, looking as earnest as her clothes, stepped out to greet Milan audiences with a traditional namaste.
The show, according to her was 'exciting, anxious, adrenalinic and a super experience' and she hoped everybody enjoyed as much as she did.