EMBROIDERY — A PERSIAN GIFT

GLOBAL SAVOIR-FAIRE — INDIA

Having primed his skills under the wing of his ‘spiritual father ‘, Azzedine Alaia, Maximiliano Modesti works “without compromise, neither in terms of quality nor during the creative process”. He has always applied this stringent philosophy, working for some of the biggest designer labels and continually pushing his boundaries, as he refines his prowess of these traditional, Indian craft techniques. Indian embroidery is rooted in the region that stretches from Agra to Calcutta. It appeared in the 17th Century, during the reign of Pacha Moghul Shah Jahan, who brought over artists and craftsmen from Persia to build forts and palaces in Rajasthan, most notably the Taj Mahal. “When I arrived in India, I was blown away by the savoir faire of traditional techniques and the manner in which they could be adapted to the world of luxury couture”.

He thus opened India’s eyes to the universe of designer fashion, teaching his embroiderers to reach his required level of excellence and by turning what was a Moghul - focused cottage industry into one better geared towards mass production.

“Modern, luxury fashion is without limits; every day witnesses a change in attitude amongst designers, who have continually evolved throughout the past decade”. The luxury brand market no longer restricts its sourcing of quality crafts to its own, small, regional production centers, but is now benefiting from the savoir-faire that is available in other countries.

It’s been twenty years now that Max has worked in India, bringing new levels of perfection to meet the needs of a clientele that includes legendary labels such as Chanel, Hermès, Yves Saint Laurent and Isabelle Marant amongst others. This has, in turn, given his French and Indian teams the opportunity to pool their respective skills in a contemporary venture.

His biggest preoccupation is meeting clients’ demands whilst ensuring that his production line keeps in rhythm. Embroidery production is, as he explains, also a question of maths. “An embroiderer works between 8 and 9 hours a day, 6 days a week, making a total of 192 hours a month in order to complete a certain length. This level of production is paramount if we are to meet our required output”.

During our discussion, Maximiliano talks about having just returned from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, where he is steering a new endeavour — “a reverse migration, so to speak”. Rather than bringing artisans over to already hugely populated, highly polluted Indian megapolis, he is encouraging his embroiderers to move back to their roots, where they can be with their families and enjoy a better standard of living. So far 25 employees, his best embroiderers, have leapt at the chance and are piloting the Lucknow project, where they are putting together and training up teams, all in the knowledge that it will take apprentices up to 2 years to meet the required level of skill. By 2016, Massimo is hoping to have trained up more than 200 embroiderers, his aim being that artisans can work from home whilst maintaining the annual output and growth that his ‘business plan’ foresees — and all this within the changing socio-economic climates that are evolving in developing countries.

Without lessening his high technical and creative standards, Massimo’s idea is to invest in other local, crafts, helping India to become a forerunner as a luxury brand supplier. He plans to use his model to expand the Banaras silk industry (in Varanasi); Pashmina and Kani textiles in Cashmere and maybe even the natural die production hub of Jaipur.

«To help luxury brands remain distinctive whilst giving artisans an economically positive role, is key for the industry to bloom” and the idea of creating small, quality production centers in each region is a pipe dream

Working in partnership with the Indian government, Massimo is developing training programmes where traditional crafts are taught and a state-recognised qualification is earned. His aim is that these crafts, having been previously marginalized and little known, will now receive both professional as well as social recognition. India is a country where traditional crafts are highly developed and, in view of the current interest that luxury brands are showing in this sector, this savoir-faire could be effectively deployed and become economically legitimate

By V. Gregori McKenzie

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