Jophiel offers luxe clutches and potlis with traditional gara embroidery
The Parsi gara embroidery is in dire need of revival. While designer Ashdeen Lilaowala, who is synonymous with the technique, has been holding the torch for almost a decade now, and has been joined by names like Patine, Tarun Tahiliani and Sabyasachi who have included the craft in their collections, it’s nowhere near enough.
So Jophiel, a luxury bag label specialising in gara embroidery comes at the right time. Launched by Mumbai-based sisters Kainaz and Firoza Tarapore, the brand is barely four months old, but it has already caused quite a stir, with many of their designs already sold out. “My father was a collector of antiques and was passionate about craft. We grew up surrounded by beautiful objects. So we had always wanted to do something creative,” says Kainaz, who had a career in marketing and media before deciding to switch gears.
Piece of heritage
The origin story of the technique is well known. The intricately embroidered swatches were brought to India by Parsi men, who were traders, from China. And the women from the community loved them so much they commissioned them to be made into saris. “Today an authentic gara sari is quite expensive. We wanted to preserve the craft by making it more accessible to people. So we thought about using the technique on bags and stoles, which can be sold at a fraction of the cost. This way, we could keep our heritage alive, even if it is in a small way,” says Firoza.
The bags are designed by the sisters, and the designs are executed by skilled artisans who have been in the business for decades. The patterns are mostly detailed with traditional motifs such as the Cheena-Cheeni motifs (which depict Chinese men and women in various settings), Chinese dragons, ambi (an Indo-Chinese design which resembles paisley), roosters, swans and parrots. The colours too are reminiscent of the saris with their deep reds and dark greens. However, clarifies Firoza, the craft is given a contemporary twist just by the way it is framed and placed on the bag. The fabric is picked based on the way the embroidery will translate once it is completed. “The textile we use is sourced from one particular vendor who only sells a very specific fabric made from authentic silk skeins. It was common when we were younger but is hard to find now,” shares Firoza.
Designed, embroidered, cut, stitched and assembled entirely by hand, the bags range from clutches to potlis, and pair well with evening wear. Some of their most interesting pieces include the Chinese Dragon Gara bag (beige dragons embroidered on red silk) from the Allure collection, the black bag featuring geometric embroidery in beige and pink also from the Allure collection and the blush pink bag with colourful Cheena embroidery from the Vintage collection. “Currently we retail only on our website, but we hope to build a following by participating in exhibitions and pop-ups. Hopefully our work has an impact on the larger purpose of creating awareness about this dying craft,” says Kainaz, signing off.
Rs.9,000 upwards. Available online.