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Without borders

New York-based designer Afshan Durrani is paying her tribute to this vanishing art - embroidery, reports Sushmita Bose.

india Updated: Dec 17, 2006 02:36 IST

Wanted to be many things — a drummer, a writer... I am an artist and can never be confined to a single medium. I studied fashion designing at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, and have lived in the Big Apple for 11 years now.

Moment of truth, 2000...That year, while working on a collection of clothes and jewellery inspired by the Mughal Empire, I decided to combine the intricate zardozi hand embroidery with punk and rock-and-roll influences.

I visited Lucknow hoping to engage the Asghar Ali family, famous all over northern India for their exquisitely hand-embroidered bridal costumes. I discovered that the patriarch of the family, Asghar Ali, had passed away, and his family was in a state of poverty and despair. I wanted to revive that tradition.

Going back in time... I spent a year researching embroidery, particularly those belonging to the 16th to 19th centuries, at the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on the Internet, and in the museums and bookshops of Paris.

I discovered that some of the most valued embroideries in the world, including the Victoria and Albert Museum collections in London, were created by Indians. I decided to co-opt the Lucknow artisans in my new project: I would shuttle between New York and Lucknow.

Lost City and Renaissance... Lost City Products was launched in 2002; it was my tribute to the vanishing artistic traditions in Lucknow. I also feel that I have created a very special ecosystem that is producing some of the most beautiful hand embroidered fabrics the world has ever seen. My two collections of home furnishings have been received with enthusiastically by buyers like Ralph Lauren and Peter Marino.

Watershed, 2006... My new collection of hand-embroidered pieces were marketed for the first time under my own label — Lost City Fabrics — which is sold at the AM Collections Showroom in Soho, New York. It will soon travel to San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Global nomad: I have never really thought of myself as an ‘Indian in the US’. I am myself everywhere.

Email Sushmita Bose: sushmita.bose@hindustantimes.com