Esoteric mysteries and exotic beauty of diverse cultures

Rithihi and Kadambari jewels bring ‘Colours of the Silk road’ - an Extravaganza of Clothing and Jewellery, sourced from and inspired by this historical region - the Ancient Silk Route on the 27th of November, modelled and showcased for the audience while dining to the delicacies of The Hilton Colombo High Tea of which the beneficiary of the proceeds will be Sunera Foundation.

The premise of the silk route collection is one of collaboration. As this trading route led to discourse and exchange of many ideas, culture, food and so forth, the fashionshowcase will be a reminder that great ideas are often born through collaboration and a sharing of aesthetics between cultures and groups of people from different parts of our world.

The term ‘Silk Route’ is symbolic, used as a metaphor of cultural exchange between East and West, Europe and Asia.It was not just the highly prized silk that travelled those roads, touching and adorning the various cultures on its way, it was also designs and motifs, weaving and embroidery techniques along with pearls, gems, spices, precious metals, coloured glass, medicines, ceramics, carpets and much more. All this stimulated an amazing cultural explosion.

Central Asia - The Turkomans, The Uzbeks - Ikat

We now look at the region of Central Asia, home to the great cities of Samarkhand, Khiva and Bukhara - The bold Ornate jewellery of the great Nomadic tribes of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the colourful textiles - notably the Ikat - art of resist dyeing, the techniques, colours and styles that can still be seen across the region , in areas as diverse as Japan, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, India and as far as South America. Silver was the metal of choice in Nomadic central Asian jewellery while Turkoman jewellery is identified by the use of carnelians and gilt, whereas Uzbek jewels used an array of precious gemstones and turquoise that was brought in from Africa, South Asia and China. The colors and boldness of Ikats complimented by these stunning jewels.

Motifs and colours - West Asia and North Africa

The 14th and 15th Centuries saw the rise of the Ottoman empire that spanned west Asia and South east Europe. The Ancient cities of Sanaa and Sadhaa in Yemen are at their peak at this time. Merchants from Morocco, Algeria and Egypt - along with the traders of Mongolia  South Asia mingled freely on the trade routes that now branched out from the original silk road.

With emblems and motifs from all these regions being adapted to all these cultures. The tradition of the jewellery of this region is highlighted against the colors of the road.

The great Silk exchange

This greatest of trade routes in the middle ages, took its name from the primary commodity that was traded along this route, the highly prized Silk fabric - and the artform associated with its production held as a closely guarded secret by the Chinese Emperors and Mandarins. Marco Polo, the great Venetian traveller carried with him Venetian glass beads that were exchanged for silk- these ancient glass millefiori trade beads are also now highly valued and sought after. Silk became both a component and a symbol of cultural diffusion. It was seen as a valuable index of civilization with regard to religious ritual, kingship, artistic production, and commercial activity. Silk stood for the higher things in life. It was a valuable, traded commodity, as well as a historical medium of exchange.

Natural dyes and Embroidery - the adaptations

A notable result of this mingling of people from diverse cultures, was the conscious and natural incorporation of symbols, motifs and patterns earlier solely associated with a particular culture, but which was now incorporated in another, adapting itself accordingly.

For instance, the popular Paisely motif used widely, and sometimes identified with India - originated in Persia and was made popular in the textiles and jewellery of the subcontinent during the Mughal rule.

The Chinese weavers adapted the Assyrian tree of life, they took the beaded rondels and bearded horsemen on winged horses from the Sassanians, the use of gold wrapped thread and conch shells and lotus from the Indians.The Byzantines were influenced by the Persians, weaving the tree of life into designs for European royalty and adopting the two headed eagle as their symbol, which was also incorporated into Central Asian Jewellery.

The use of natural dyes, embroidered clothing were worn across the region, emblems and motifs being adapted to different cultures.

Using all this as inspiration and a point of reference - the collection of jewellery and clothing has been specifically created and sourced from the various regions. Not only put together in a creative manner but also reflecting the authenticity of its history and its adaptability to remain relevant and real even today.

A large part of the clothing collection is borne out of collaboration true to the nature of the Silk route! Working with designers and creative artists like Sonam Dubal, DIpanjali Bedi, Chandrashekar of Metaphor and The SIlk line from Kanchipuram to create the pieces showcased.

Ikat pleated pants inspired by the desert Oriental pants worn by the travelers in bright tones - gold tones.The long capes are kimono styled in in muted and vibrant Ikats reflecting the Asian influences that were a part of the Choga tradition worn along the Frontier lands along the silk route by the travelers. This influence trickled down from the Ikat stories of the Japanese artists into the route of the silk road.

Using the silk weaving techniques of Kanchipuram which is most known for its warp design - the vel dhari pattern was taken to reflect this typical unique technique, but by using silver zari (twisting silk and pure silver thread) - this traditional sari has been transformed into a very contemporary garment.

The pomegranate motif woven in silver on the sari is based on an abstract illustration of the fruit and has been one of the hardest to weave. Again, a non native motif to the Kanchipuram region.

For Metaphor it was the colors that were a source of inspiration, the jewel tones used on the off white base reflect the colors on the Moroccan jewellery. The art of embroidery is given a twist with the fabric being held together by stitches.

What we hope this fashion showcase will promote is the idea of collaboration and working together - openly accepting and recognising influences from far and wide. Readily breaking barriers and walls and stereotyped notions of what is ours and what is theirs. Not to be confused with just having one pot of mish mash but taking all of this to create something unique and original - layering it with our thoughts and our experiences.

Grab your tickets at Rithihi, Alfred House Gardens or Hilton Colombo to witness this cultural celebration



20th November, 2017 Applied Art