Garments that embrace Sufism | Sunday Observer

Garments that embrace Sufism

BRINGING ALIVE TRADITIONAL CRAFTSMANSHIP: Models wearing outfits  designed by Muzaffar Ali
BRINGING ALIVE TRADITIONAL CRAFTSMANSHIP: Models wearing outfits designed by Muzaffar Ali

Her long flowy kurtis look simple, minimalistic even though the design language is strong and powerful. Visually, they transcend boundaries, time and period. If you see the motifs carefully, the voice inside you would tell you they are symbols of Sufism. Meet its creator - Yasmin Kidwai, an old hand in filmmaking who forayed into fashion only three years ago. She has now created eclectic four dozen garments that embrace Sufism in all its multiple meanings.

While doing the balancing act between cinematography and costumes, Yasmin stuck to her fundamentals of Sufism both literally and metaphorically. She has emulated the Sufi sense of freedom and expression in easy yet classic styles at her new range of outfits which were showcased at a stylish pop-up organised at Guppy in Delhi recently by House of Qidwa, her pret brand, and handcrafted jewellery brand Zariin.

“When I was asked to define my own clothes, I instantly felt it was Sufism. I wanted my clothes to be free from constrain - they can be traditional as well as modern. Sufism for me means minimalism and pluralism. It also means love and acceptance. As a result, my clothes are minimal; they are not heavy on embellishments. Looking at them you cannot get a clear cut answer as to from where they have originated. They could be from any part of the world,” says Yasmin.

However, Sufism is much more in terms of its philosophical side rather than its shadow on outfits. And this is where Muzaffar Ali, who easily straddles from films like Umrao Jaan, to high street fashion where he conducts extravagant shows to celebrate craftsmanship of Kotwara’s karigars, needs to be understood. He virtually lives and breathes Sufism. And Sufism’s multiple meanings resonate at his annual event Jahan-e-Khusrau.

Broader meaning

Describing Sufism as a way of looking at the lives of people, Ali says: “Everything has larger cause and larger effect. It is a compassionate way of life, of love and surrender. It could be reflected on architecture, film or painting.”

Explaining how Sufism is reflected on his craftsmanship, he says, “Sufis, from the beginning, have laid emphasis on seeing the beauty in everything and as the Quran says, “He has inscribed beauty on all things’ and the Hadith that ‘verily God is beautiful and loves beauty.’ Craft is the celebration of this beauty and is manifested in both architecture and clothing and gives dignity to the craftspersons. As a creative person you have to reinvent and redefine craft to keep it refreshed in the hearts and minds of the users. You may term this fashion or style. It is this reinvention that keeps the craftspersons in jobs. You can call this barakah or blessing.”

Meanwhile, in her creative pursuit to take her pret brand forward, Yasmin has managed to break a few archaic notions about how our traditional embroidery is understood by those who vouch for its heaviness. “Zardozi is looked upon as heavy embellishments but I have invested time and research to show that my clothes, decorated with this kind of embroidery, appears light on the eyes.”

Physically, one can feel the soft texture of the kurti. The garment embossed with gold thread work seems as light as other outfits embellished with aari or crochet buttons.

Sufism stands for minimalism, simplicity yet making a statement of freedom of thought, yet there are varied ways of interpreting it.

Ali says: “Minimal or elaborate, chikankari or zardozi, weaving in Varanasi, Bhagalpur or Srinagar, the philosophy is always two fold. One is to keep craft alive at its most elaborate and intricate level and conserve those special skills for future that may go extinct. The second is creating a sense of beauty and simplicity at a basic level, nurture a passion for the handwoven and handspun in the youth of today be it national or global. The Sufi mind is an open universal mind which does not believe in man-made barriers. She or he believes in oneness of the human race. Therefore simplicity, intricacy and freedom of thought acquire different meanings.”

Delineating the link between Islamic mysticism and her costumes, Yasmin says: “The dargah and the basti are the best representatives of Sufism. People from across the globe come to Nizamuddin and the basti lives and breathes that atmosphere. It is an oasis of peace in a bustling city. This is exactly what I wanted the clothes to represent.

They are accommodating, can be worn with Eastern or Western sensibilities while looking inward and forward.”

Interestingly, the idea to start stitching clothes originated from a few like-minded friends who warm up to her style of clothing and comment on its comfort and timelessness. “As a filmmaker, I work a lot with craftsperson. Creativity takes me to all over the country and I always find it fascinating how each region reflects its life, history and culture. However, we in cities are dictated only by Western influences – we choose to wear impractical jeans in 45-degree temperature rather than our own traditional garment which can easily absorb the heat wave.” Ali works with craftsperson of Kotwara to provide them livelihood. “For me, fashion is a way to empower the people.”

Generally, Sufism is associated with black and white. Ali believes that colours are all about celebration. “Sufism can be manifested in multiple ways. There is even a branch of Sufis who wear garish clothes. Some people like to wear black, green and some even saffron.”

- The Hindu

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