By Anjum Choudhry Nayyar
When he’s not setting the stage for projects through House of Waris , guest starring in top films like the ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ or creating conversations around smart GAP ads, New York designer Waris Ahluwalia is travelling to the nooks of India to create the perfect cultural line for Canada’s luxury specialty retailer, Holt Renfrew.
The brand launched H Project, a unique in-store shop of extraordinary products with extraordinary stories, led by Alexandra Weston, Holt Renfrew’s Director of Brand Strategy. H Project’s offerings support culture, craft and artisans globally as well as products made from sustainable or responsible materials and that tie back to a charitable initiative.
This season, Alexandra Weston collaborated with designer Waris Ahluwalia, founder of House of Waris, to ‘uncrate’ the special stories, richness and diversity of India through its products. For Waris, the journey to find the perfect mix of items through India was all about ‘humanity’.
“Craftmanship, artisanhip, culture, it’s all about one thing, it’s about humanity,” said Ahluwalia. “And that’s my focus. Humanity through trade; humanity through connectivity. There was a time when you knew who made your things, things you consumed. We no longer live in that time. You don’t know your butcher, you don’t your baker; that’s what commerce meant. There was a humanity. I always say, every article of clothing I wear, I know the person who made it. So for me, it’s about it’s beyond trade or commerce, it is humanity.”
Watch this video for a sneak peek at his journey with Alexandra Weston though India with the artisans of ‘Uncrate India.’
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“The idea behind the ‘uncrate’ concept is to showcase the incredible products of different cultures and support the continuation of these amazing crafts around the world. We began with India and sought to explore the artisanal depth and discover the extraordinary products of the country and tell their extraordinary stories within our H Project shops,” said Alexandra Weston. “We partnered with Waris Ahluwalia as he truly embodies the romance, vibrant culture and sophistication of India.”
Alexandra Weston and Waris Ahluwalia journeyed through India, visiting Delhi, Jaipur, Udaipur & Mandawa and selected enchanting products, from block-print textiles and batik silk scarves to hand-woven rugs and precious gemstones. Waris says each item tells a story.
“We went on a mission of discovery. Seeking out great talents, incredible objects, fresh interpretations of ancient ideas and products that transcend borders,” said Waris Ahluwalia. “H Project allows us to continue to support traditional techniques and share our passion for craftsmanship with the world.”
Here are some of my favourite finds from the collection Uncrate India!
Born in Amritsar, Waris’ father was a linguistics professor at Guru Nanak Dev University and his m other had a Master’s in Education from the US and ran a school. He moved to New York at the age of five.
He founded House of Waris House of Waris where he has collaborated with many designers and artists over the years. throughout the years. It was after the owners of Maxfield’s in Los Angeles noticed Ahluwalia’s diamond rings that his brand House of Waris received even more attention. In 2010, Ahluwalia ranked on Vanity Fair’s Best Dressed List, anointed British GQ’s second best dressed man internationally and included in Vogue’s 10 Most Impactful people list.
In his collection with Holt’s H Project I asked him about his choice of making leather an integral part of the collection, including leather notebooks.
“I love all materials, all natural materials. I use a leather notebook, so I thought let’s make a leather notebook. Even things like treasure chests for secrets…because, well, I have a lot of secrets.”
Secrets! While I wished I could’ve prodded him about his ‘secrets,’ but instead I chose to ask Waris about the influence his mom had on his life thus far. He smiled as he answered my question:
“The role my mother played in my life is probably…” he paused in an effort to find just the perfect answer, “If I can end it with this: that’s everything.”
The launch was truly a production of elegance, attention to detail and felt like you had entered a grand Indian palace of sorts. As guests entered they were greeted two garbed men throwing welcoming flower petals and sitar players and bhangra music set the tone for the evening. There was a Bindi station, a perfume area, a tea bar, a postcard station where you could send one of the scenes from Waris’ journey to a friend who may have missed the event. There were live performances before and after the arrival of Waris as he took time to meet and greet guests and even pose with them for pictures.
The Scene at Holt Renfrew with ‘Uncrate’ India
These spectacular pieces from over 16 designers, along with an exclusive jewellery capsule collection from the House of Waris, will be available as part of Uncrate India collection, within Holt Renfrew’s H Project shops across Canada.
Holt Renfrew’s H Project spaces at Bloor Street, Yorkdale, Calgary and Vancouver will transform into Uncrate India shops from April 1 until May 31, 2014. The shop will support UNICEF’s lifesaving work for children in India with a $15,000 donation to support local initiatives.
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