Swati and Sunaina's Gyaser collection revives an ancient weave in the form of a Benarasi sari
SWATI AND SUNAINA may not be trained textile designers, but their recent Gyaser collection has definitely put them on the map of the Indian handloom industry, as the revivalists of traditional weaves — first Benarasi and then Gyaser.
Gyaser was originally a weave which was done on a thick fabric for Buddhist monasteries — for lining thrones or making the robes and considered auspicious for the various religious symbols and motifs like fish, conch, thunderbolt, and dragon, which were woven into it. The fabric has been woven in Benaras for a long time, with various stories of origin, about who got it to Benaras first, the Nepali traders living in Kalimpong or the Marwari businessmen living in Rajasthan who passed through Kalimpong, a meeting point for traders from different countries.
“Both Swati and I have always been fascinated with Gyaser textile which originated in China, was woven in Benaras and sold in Tibet. It uses a complex weaving technique, with multiple wefts (horizontal threads), that move in and out of the fabric, to create intricate, ornate patterns, much like the Benarasi. But the real challenge was to reduce the thickness and increase its width, to make it wearable,” informs Sunaina, one of the co-founders of the label.
“We arrived at the right blend with mulberry silk, which looks and feels like Chinese silk, but is not too thick or heavy. In order to create really bright golden motifs, we also had to introduce quantitatively more gold in each zari section, than is normally required for our other Benarasi saris,” she adds.
“Each Gyaser sari is made in 98.5 purity silver thread, dipped in 24-carat gold, and yet it is neither stiff, nor does it weigh too much, and drapes effortlessly. We decided to do away with the religious motifs and replaced them, with different kinds of oriental flowers — such as roses, lilies, chrysanthemums, and carnations,” informs Swati, the other half of the duo.
Like every sari in the label, the Gyaser saris also have a name, coined on the basis of the designs used. For example, the Anjuman sari has a chequered pattern with flowers lining them; Chilman has elaborate patterns running throughout its length and the Gulab Bari, has a bed of roses and rosebuds. The saris come in a wooden box, wrapped in a white muslin cloth, with an authenticity certificate where you can trace the name of the weaver, the warp and weft and the thread count used, as well as the number of days taken to finish the work.
“We try to create an heirloom piece, which can be handed down through generations and that is why we give an authenticity certificate, which will help us trace the origin of each sari through its bill number, even 20 years later.” She adds, “We just make 12 pieces of a single pattern or design — each in a different colour. But we don’t repeat colours by policy so that each piece owned by the client remains unique,” informs Sunaina
So how long does it take for a sari? “Two and half months,” she responds, elaborating, “So we can’t come up with multiple collections in a year. But our next collection will be Benarasi again, with a new design, or pattern,” she signs off.