Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Treasures at a craft fair

A visit to a New Delhi craft fair can have a draining effect on the wallet.

I knew I was going to bleed money even before I stepped out of the car. After an hour of driving around aimlessly in New Delhi, in search of a craft fair, we finally found ourselves staring into the lion’s mouth.

An arts and craft fair did not sound very exciting to me at first. I expected a few trinkets and, in the wake of the Commonwealth Games, discounted souvenirs. Instead, my friends and I found ourselves at Dastkar, one of India’s largest open-air gatherings of arts and craft fairs.

An open-air market with tantalising smells of food from around the country was to our left. I am someone who likes to live on street food, but it was the fabrics that caught me off guard. Many people assume that, like Indian cuisine, Indian fabrics are cut from the same cloth. But each region, state, and even village has its special tastes in food and skills on display, whether it be pottery, painting, sculpting or working with fabrics. In fact, every state of India has a distinct fabric and pattern it calls its own.

My first stop, where I should have spent five minutes browsing, turned into a half-hour chat with a weaver from Kumaon, in the state of Uttaranchal. His mix of silk and wool was the kind of patterns that abstract artists dream of. Even as I browsed he happily chatted, not caring to sell rather than dispense knowledge to someone, who out of habit, asked questions.

The fabrics, mostly scarves, stoles and shawls were made with a blend of silk and wool. The dyes were organic, sourced from everyday products such as onion skins, marigold flowers, indigo and walnut.

When I started walking away with three scarves, he called me back and instructed me on how to care for them, handing me an organic powder that was a natural detergent for such fabrics.

After that I had to flee the fabrics section, only to find myself staring at miniature art, also known as phad paintings. The curly-haired young man proudly said that his younger brother, Prakash Joshi, was an artist from Bhilwara in Rajasthan, who had learnt the skills passed down from their father and ­grandfather.

There were some truly beautiful, multicoloured traditional miniature works that depicted the royals. I couldn’t stop salivating over his panels that were more contemporary and done with a sense of humour, simply using white paper and a black-ink brush that drew lines as fine as the ones on our skin.

Finally, the man himself came by and in a moment of complete hero worship, I asked him to sign my panels. Afterwards, I discovered that he had drawn little elephants and horses on the envelope as well.

I spent the rest of the five hours gawking at some of the finest craftsmanship that India had to offer, and only reluctantly left when they started dismantling the tents.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Thoughtful tailoring at Asudari

The womenswear label Asudari showcased a collection that featured sharp masculine tailoring, but with feminine silhouettes.

Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games.

Designer Lamia Asudari says she was influenced by Delftware ceramics from the 16th century, as well as the imagery of weaponry and artillery. Indeed, pistols, grenades and guns were emblazoned over jackets and dresses.

 Several of Jo Baaklini's pieces featured fruit prints. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: At Starch, watermelon shirts, anyone?

“We need to cultivate our own fashion heroes — our own regional brands,” stressed Fashion Forward’s honcho Bong Guerrero in a press con two weeks ago.

Aptly, the slot for this season’s opening runway show was given to two newbies: Jo Baaklini and Timi Hayek, whose talents were scouted by Starch, a group dedicated to launching emerging Lebanese designers.

Between the two, Mr Baaklini had a stronger showing.

 Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece. Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Jean Louis Sabaji’s debatable debut

Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece, the floral crop top, and the radiant yellow pleated skirt.

But most of the time he went too far. There were bell-bottoms, separates that looked like costumes from The Jetsons, and a yellow dress reminiscent of Bjork’s infamous Oscars swan dress — several disparate elements in one multicoloured, multilayered show.

 Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all.” Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Kage pleases all palates

Did the designers of Kage aim to showcase every type of basic clothing on their latest show?

Because there were skirts, shorts, trousers, off-shoulder tops, short dresses, cocktail dresses, long flowy dresses, spaghetti straps, jackets, hoods — and even pyjamas, which with the incoming summer heat, looked especially appealing.

Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all”, they said in their statement.

 The standout was a grey hooded cape that created a tension between edge and elegance. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Polish, craft (and fur!) at The Emperor 1688

The best show of Day 1 at Fashion Forward was delivered by the three Golkar brothers behind The Emperor 1688.

The coats and capes were the clear winners: they came in all sorts of interesting colours and sizes — and featured exceptionally tailored proportions. There was a lot of volume, but also stiffness.

And whimsy: two favourites were a green double-breasted suit and a blue overcoat with a red clover pattern and gold buttons.

 Midway through Ezra's show, snow started falling from the ceiling. Ian Gavan / Getty Images for Fashion Forward

Fashion Forward: Ezra stuns in snow-covered show

Turns out the Filipino designer Ezra, known for his dreamy couture, still had a few surprises up his sleeve.

Midway through his show, snow started falling from the ceiling.

It created a starkly beautiful atmosphere for his intricately constructed gowns that seemed to be designed for an Ice Queen transported back to the 1950s.

He showed a collection that had a lot of technical firepower behind it: glittering iridescent fabrics paired with head and neckpieces that were moulded and stiffened to stand out in odd angles.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National