Vaishali S Couture Fall 2021

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“Bodies are like fabric to me and thread is like a breath,” Vaishali Shadangule said just before her first show as a guest designer on the Paris couture calendar for her label Vaishali S, established more than 20 years ago in India.

While she was recovering from COVID-19, the designer was struck by the parallel between breath, a biological function so universal and instinctive that it isn’t thought about much until air runs out; and thread, an equally essential component of the fashion industry.

This became the inspiration for a collection where she showcased the wealth of the Indian textile tradition, far beyond the embroideries widely used in the global fashion industry, on silhouettes inspired by the plant world.

Vaishali S Couture Fall 2021

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For these asymmetric curving shapes that skimmed but never constrained the body, she used fabrics such khand, a lightweight weave from Northern India traditionally used for sarees; Chanderi, a sheer fabric with a glossy sheen that originates from Shadangule’s home region of Madhya Pradesh; or a gossamer thin merino wool weave that felt as light as air, yet warm. Her signature technique of cording, using long hand-rolled cords made from her textiles, became both embellishment and a structural element, winding around hips and limbs or outlining the shape of a garment.

But showing in Paris wasn’t just a personal achievement for the designer. At a moment where India’s textile sector is facing a crisis due to the pandemic, Shadangule also felt a responsibility toward the families — around 900, spread all over the country — that are dependent on her business. “I wanted to show the beautiful textiles, the fabrics we make by hand, choosing our own threads. In this difficult time, [by showing in Paris] I can give them some hope,” she said.

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