FORCE OF NATUREVarana’s new Tree of Life collection emphasises artisanal craftsmanship, harmony and botanical references in equal measure.

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Inspired by an 18th-century Indian print design, the SS19 line features dreamy motifs, organic lines and artisanal craftsmanship. Founder and creative director Sujata Keshavan spoke to Harvey Nichols about the collection.

A LIVING TRADITION

“India has so much to offer in regards to its extraordinary textile and craft industry. The heritage of weaving and printing fabrics stretches back thousands of years, and today we have the largest number of artisans in the world. This is not just history, but a living tradition.

This extraordinary cultural heritage has stayed within the sub-continent in traditional dress forms. As a contemporary and globally minded designer, I wanted to reinterpret pieces from the region and make them relevant for the rest of the world.”

TREE OF LIFE

“The SS19 collection is inspired by the mythical motif of the Tree of Life. It was an extremely popular subject for the southern Indian textile makers of the Coromandel Coast in the 17th and 18th centuries, whose palampore chintz fabrics captivated European markets.

We have focused on a rare 18th-century depiction – one of the few to feature bamboo stems. It’s a celebration of the ecosystem, with peacocks, birds, flowers and marine life all coexisting. At this time of increased consciousness, in respect to climate change and global warming, it seemed particularly relevant to use a symbol of living harmoniously with nature.”

IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS

“We’ve deconstructed elements from the original painting and rendered them in new ways. Silk organza is appliquéd with the 16th-century technique of Ari hand embroidery, while a specially woven linen capsule features woodblock printing. In keeping with the holistic nature of the Tree of Life, we’ve used the colours of nature in spring – the light blue of the sky, leafy greens, delicate pinks and clean whites.

We only use natural fabrics – including cashmere, silk, linen and cotton – that we have custom woven or printed, avoiding synthetic fabrics that do not biodegrade, and can ruin our planet.”

THE VARANA WOMAN

“My muse, the Varana woman, is cosmopolitan and well-travelled. She is eclectic in her interests, confident in her taste and refined in her sensibility. She is discerning, and has an appreciation for fine craft as opposed to mass-produced luxury, which is an oxymoron. There’s a whole world beyond our clothes, and it’s important for her to know where and how things are made, and the impact that they leave on the world.”

THE ONE PIECE

“For each collection, we create our own take on the trench coat, transforming it from a ubiquitous style to a uniquely Varana design. This time around, we used custom-made silk organza that’s printed and hand-embroidered with the Tree of Life design. It’s beautiful, and one of the standout pieces of the SS19 collection.”