October 13, 2023 FDCI

Spinning Luxury

“Handspun” is Himanshu Shani’s leitmotif this LFW, as he celebrates innately Indian techniques and processes from Bandhej to Ajrak and natural indigo dyeing making a play for incorporating kala cotton in Gen Z style lexicon  

By Asmita Aggarwal

It had all the trapping of a show stealer—chaitais (made of river grass) for a ramp, live soulful music, the stylish Rajani family well represented with the father, mother and daughter on the runway, and of course model-turned social worker Tamara Moss at the 11:11 showcase at LFW 2023. Kala Khoj produced the show, it is an initiative by Himanshu Shani of Celldsgn, a “for profit” company owned by artisans based in Khambhra, Kachchh.

The presentation in some ways on a warm summer evening took over the beauty of the ensembles as the delicate touches Shani added with hand spun cotton and Bandhej were as “real as his show stoppers” albeit many in number. He made a conscious choice to include supporters of the brand, from Charu Shankar to spinner Prashant, restoration architect Gurmeet Rai, Anthony Lopez, director of Lopez Design to Gautam Seth founder Clove studio.

Shani, a NIFT Gandhinagar graduate, who won a prize at this famed institution, to travel to do his masters from Milan, Domus Academy. Thereafter, he worked with Renzo Russo of Diesel designing for them, at that time way back 15 years Celldsgn (formed in 2003), also worked with Levi’s. But 11:11 was launched in 2009, Japanese-American Mia Morikawa joined in 2010, it has been working tirelessly with khadi, natural dyes, attempting organic clothing with a soul. Their kala cotton denim has been much loved just like their experiments with Kalamkari artisans this season for LFW, winning them a rack at Henry Cuir, an Italian brand, has been retailing in Tokyo, Japan for about 15 years.

The half-Sindhi-Gujarati boy understands the beauty of showcasing modern shapes —draped shrug, tunics, saree jumpsuits, trousers repurposed, kaftans in natural indigo, kantha, smooth mulberry silks, using age-old techniques like mud-resist dyeing. Being an expert, you could see his mastery over even footwear that was executed in handspan denim.

What elevated the ensembles was the live music of Sina Fakhroddin, a musician of Persian-Kurdish heritage, who has been playing the Persian Classical Drum Tombak for the last 21 years. He studied Indian classical music and aims to do a comparative study between the two cultures through a Ph.d from the US. From tamarind to madder red, Shani gave us a lot of love— Japanese techniques like Boro, where you rework and repair textiles patching and stitching, extending their life to succulent hand block prints.

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