By Meher Castelino
Jay Ramrakhiani’s passion only revolves now around creating beautiful weaving designs in Benaras and presenting them as saris and garments. But not many will however believe after seeing his brocade saris that Jay learnt his fashion fundas as an intern in the Far East and then as an apprentice in the West with Stellar Fashion Maisons. He worked with Ellie Saab, Karl Lagerfeld and Louis Ferraud in London and Paris, where he acquired impeccable knowledge in garment construction, finish and the couture style of fashion.
He has dressed the Katy Ford supermodel Bipasha Basu in 1996 when she won the crown at the contest and dressed Miss India contestants and celebs, which even earned him the title of ‘Armani of India’ from Debonair magazine in 2002. But in 2013 Verve called him “Banarasi Babu since he had changed tracks onto the traditional craft of weaving.
His ethnic Banarasi journey started 20-odd years ago when he was Design Head for the Taj Group of Hotels. He created stylish uniforms and saris for the Taj Hotels in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Udaipur and Hyderabad as well as the Taj Khazana Boutiques in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Goa and Bengaluru.
Now Jay’s life revolves around dreaming up intricate designs colours and styles in brocade weaves like Mughal Kinkhab, Kashmiri Jamavaars and Tanchui. He has revived nearly 50 old designs and merged the ancient with the contemporary aesthetics. He has created saris, lehengas and cholis but also jackets, pants, gowns, dresses, skirts and blouses. But Jay does not want to stop there, as he would also like to design in future products like home furnishings, upholstery, cushion covers and bed throws so that the Benaras weavers get a wider exposure.
Aware of the diminishing number of weavers Jay is mentoring a village on the outskirts of Ramnagar called Milkipur and he ensures that the weavers’ looms are kept active so that the legacy of the artisans is sustained. He has also adopted a village with 150 weavers across Benaras who work on different designs and weaves.
His exhibition on October 11 and 12 at Coomarswamy Hall for “Pause for a Cause” promises to have exciting saris and rich garments that will be ideal for the festive season.
Jay is available at his studio from 11am to 7pm by appointment only where his creations are also available. Prices range from Rs 3,500 to Rs 150,000 and his terms of business are strictly cash, banker’s draft or cheque.
Jay Ramrakhiani, Studio13, Basement A Building, Byculla Service Industrail Premises, DK Road, Byculla (East), Mumbai 400027
Meher Castelino is one of India’s best known fashion journalists and commentators. Long before India was recognised as the home of style and beauty queens, Meher was crowned Miss India. Way, way back in 1964! She has also mentored many emerging divas, including a certain Aishwarya Rai. Meher writes in many Indian and international publications. For Xyngr, she stylegazes every Wednesday.