The Heroes Reviving India’s Heritage Textiles: Anika Gupta Of Bageecha
Where: New Delhi
Known for: Benarasis
When Anika married Akshay Gupta two-and-a-half years ago, she didn’t even consider wearing a handwoven Benarasi sari or lehnga for any of her wedding functions. Afterwards, when her mother-in-law gifted her some heirloom saris, she decided to wear them only when she was older. “I wondered why I did not identify with them at that time. Then I realised that they were too heavy for my taste. But the fabric, the intricacy of the weave, the zari and the stories behind them were fascinating,” relates Gupta from her studio in Shahpur Jat. However, as a young girl she preferred the same with lighter motifs and in a pastel shade. Gupta sat down with the weavers in Varanasi, with whom her family worked for the past 150 years, and charted a new design blueprint. There has been no looking back since then.
At Bageecha, the ideology is uncomplicated — to retain the essence and classical traditions of Varanasi through a fresh, youthful module. The vintage glass chandelier, the colourful bangles, the plate of small bindis and the pictorial depiction of their wares carry the old-world charm, along with its simplicity, rustic vibe and vibrant exuberance. Gupta’s family is one of the oldest to work with Varanasi’s weavers. Their old retail showroom is at Banaras House in Connaught Place. The idea of Bageecha was conceived when Gupta suggested a younger line citing that several would-be brides would prefer that. “We have retained old designs but uncluttered them for a contemporary get-up,” elaborates Akshay.
For instance, while many of the old weaves carried labyrinthine jaals, junglas and bootis, Gupta’s designs are minimalist for a frothy effect. Motifs from miniature paintings merged with candy pinks, mint greens and blush look ebullient. Initially, the weavers were sceptical about clearing up the designs but when prospective brides gravitated towards the final result, they were motivated to innovate. “The artisans use the word mahin which means intricate. In all our motifs, we ensure that the detailing is retained because that is what heritage is all about. The finer the weave, the more luxurious it is. Young girls opt for fluorescent pink, coral or firozi (turquoise) instead of the usual hues. We have a piece in peach that has cherry blossoms woven into it. We ensure a modish look for our reds with a unique version of the aara motif. These do well for bridals. Subtlety heightens the richness of the garment. There’s this timeless appeal in going vintage,” explains Gupta.