Every design has a tale to tell

What happens when you combine the finest hand-woven Pashmina with rare embroidery and then, top it off with a subtle design sensibility that straddles the traditional and the contemporary?

The result is an unusual combination of lusciously soft Pashmina shawls with embroidery like appliqué and jamawar paisley motifs, reworked in a contemporary colour palette. There are 19th century British motifs and antique Deccani designs transposed on to luxurious bedspreads and throws.

These creations are on offer from Andraab, a luxury label for designer Pashmina shawls, stoles, bedspreads and throws. It’s patronised by the likes of Cameron Diaz and Helen Hunt and the seriously rich in India.

Andraab, with stores in Jaipur and Udaipur, is the brainchild of the three Andrabi brothers from Kashmir: Mubashir, Muzakir and Muzaffar. “Our core competency is rare hand embroidery and definitely, the best Pashmina,” says Mubashir, who started it all.

The focus is on reviving the fine, hand-woven Pashmina. Forget those machine-made imitations from Ludhiana. We’re talking serious money here. Like the Rs 7.5 lakh Pashmina shawl that reinterprets a 600-year-old jama paisley design in a fresh palette of pastel greens and blues with hints of yellow and pink.

“Some people wear our shawls for a year and then put them up as wall hangings,” says Zahoor Mir, marketing head, Andraab.

Andraab’s genesis can be traced to the time when Mubashir, an English literature graduate from Jamia Milia University, went to Germany to work with a leading carpet trader. “I found I had little to contribute. So I came back in three months,” he says. Back home, he launched M Three Exports (it owns the Andraab label) in the late 90s. Initially, the brothers sourced products and sold them in India and the US, where Mubashir’s twin Muzakir held trunk shows. “Soon, we realised that we were selling old wine in new bottles,” says Mubashir.

The three decided to manufacture and work directly with craftsmen. Though none of them have a design background, they relied on Muzaffar’s aesthetic sensibility. The first thing they did was focus on hand-woven Pashmina. Kashmiri Pashmina has suffered from the influx of silk Pashmina from Nepal, machine-made Pashminas from Amritsar and Ludhiana and also the turmoil in the valley, explains Mubashir.

We want to educate people about Pashmina — the finest grade of cashmere, only hand-spun and hand-woven in northern-most India. The Kashmiri yarn is so fragile that it can’t be put on a powerloom,” he says.

Andraab, claims Mubashir, sources the finest Pashmina wool from the Himalayas. “We don’t compromise on quality,” he says. Andraab works with over 150 craftsmen in Kashmir today and also has its own manufacturing unit outside Moradabad, specialising in embroidery.

Andraab’s other focus is on reviving the finest embroidery. This came about when Mubashir chanced upon a book on the Palampur hand-painted textiles of 17th and 18th century Himachal Pradesh. Today, Andraab sells silk bedspreads embroidered in the Palampur style.

Andraab opened its first outlet in Delhi in the early 2000s. But it moved to Jaipur in 2006 and opened its second outlet in Udaipur in 2008. A large chunk of its sales comes from the US.

TRENDS

The accent is on reviving ancient embroidery and patterns and imbuing them with a contemporary sensibility. The colour palette trends towards pastels. So, the paisley patterns on a traditional jama shawl (Rs 1.9 lakh) is in pale pink on a natural tone.

Then, there’s the Kund line of plain Pashminas with a contrast edge (Rs 13,500). So a charcoal grey Kund shawl has a black edge. Andraab has also created shawls fringed on all sides

PRODUCTS

The Andrabi brothers’ unique design sensibility shows in their subtle improvisations. There’s a white-on-white shawl with embroidered paisley motifs. All the motifs are in white except for a lone one in red in a corner.

Their inspirations include British designer William Morris’ famous Daisies motif. Take the pale purple shawl with an antique Oriental design in appliqué (Rs 40,000). The design is drawn from a 400-year-old piece of cloth from the Louvre. To hold heavier embroidery like appliqué, Andraab does use machine-made Pashminas. Then, the Rs 12,000 Kori shawl is embroidered with a contemporary Native American Indian design by artist Alexander Korig Girard.

Andraab’s bedspreads are priced between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 4 lakh. There’s a luscious brown silk bedspread with Morris’ Daisies in red, white and pale green. Or there’s the Rs 3.75-lakh grey-and-blue silk bedspread embroidered with a Deccan design drawn from a piece of cloth that originally belonged to Tipu Sultan. Andraab’s hand-woven Pashmina mufflers start at Rs 6,500. And its basic collection of plain, tie-and-dyed, striped and check stoles are priced at Rs 11,500-Rs 12,500, while the basic Jacquard weave hand-woven Pashmina shawls start at Rs 16,500.

The accent’s always on innovating though. Andraab has just introduced a line of knitted Pashmina baby blankets and mufflers. “Our endeavour is to give people the finest crafts,” says Mubashir.