Sikh designer Waris Ahluwalia teams with Holts to bring unique Indian crafts to Canadian shoppers (w/video)

Published: April 4, 2014

LAUREN LA ROSE
THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO — When he’s not gracing the big screen in films including “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Inside Man” and “The Darjeeling Limited,” Waris Ahluwalia is making a mark on the style world as designer of House of Waris.

The fashionable New Yorker is adding yet another artistic endeavour to his plate through a partnership with Holt Renfrew bringing the works of craftspeople in his native India to Canadians.

Waris Ahluwalia (left) and Alexandra Weston hold a House of Waris scarf which showcases the craft of Batik in Udaipur, India on Nov. 15, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

Ahluwalia teamed with Alexandra Weston, the retailer’s director of brand strategy, with the duo travelling to Delhi, Jaipur, Udaipur and Mandawa to select goods for the Uncrate India collection. The line is being featured within Holt Renfrew’s H Project shops across the country until May 31, and a $15,000 donation will also be made to UNICEF to support local initiatives in India.

“To say that the project is right up our alley at House of Waris is an understatement. The work that we do is about supporting craft and craftsmanship,” Ahluwalia said in an interview seated alongside Weston.

“Craftsmanship is more than just shopping or products. These are products and objects that have come from people that we’ve met and people that we’ve exchanged with, and that’s sort of the key thing to understand.

“There’s an alternate kind of commerce rather than mass production and manufacturing. There are families, there are small companies that are involved in every one of these objects that we’ve brought together here.”

In addition to an exclusive jewelry capsule collection from House of Waris, the works of more than 16 designers will be featured in Uncrate India, including items like bowls, notebooks, hand-woven rugs, handbags and pillows. Scarves and pocket squares in the collection were crafted using the art of batik, which involves applying and reapplying wax to fabric that is also dyed to create complex forms of painting.

Despite highlighting products that use traditional techniques often passed down through generations, Ahluwalia emphasized that their focus is very much on the present with items that embody contemporary design, ideas and concepts with modern-day relevance — a sentiment echoed by Weston.

“I know me as an avid traveller, I get carried away by what I see and what you find in the market and all the things and the people we experience,” she said.

“I have a lot of pieces in my closet that I bring back home and it’s a memory, but you think: ‘When am I ever going to wear this here?’ And so because it’s on such a big scale, (it’s) really (about) understanding the esthetic of the Holt Renfrew brand and our customer and what elements would transcend.”

Both Ahluwalia and Weston hope that the artisans will continue to bolster their businesses and further extend their reach into the global marketplace.

“We’re not giving money to the craftsmen — we’re buying their product. We’re supporting their work, which I think is so much more important than donations,” said Ahluwalia. “They’re not looking for donations — they want to work. They’ve been working for centuries and they want to work and they want to continue to work.”

“And they want to continue to be relevant so the next generation will continue to work,” added Weston.

Ahluwalia has managed to balance his role at House of Waris with his burgeoning film career, but he sees no real distinction between his high-profile lines of work.

“They’re all acts of creation, so I don’t really separate the two,”‘ he said.

“We’re all making things and telling stories is what it all comes down to. A film is a story. And what we’re doing here, each object represents a story.”

——

Online:

www.holtsmuse.com/culture/h-project-uncrates-india/

www.houseofwaris.com

15:00ET 04-04-14

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