Taking inspiration from the ancient practise of weaving gold and silver threads into fabrics made for nobility, Gunjan Aggarwal and Bejoy Suri incepted the luxury men’s fashion accessory brand, Goulian Finch, known for its line of intricately crafted pocket squares. The duo always envisioned a harmonious platform where art effortlessly meets artists, the latest trends mix with the ancient patterns, and tradition and modernity go hand-in-hand. Their intention to assert a place for Indian textile in luxury fashion took them to the mystical city of Benaras, known for its handloom weaving art form, Benarasi. In an exclusive interview, Gunjan and Bejoy share their passion for the craft, their vision, future plans, and more. Edited excerpts...
Asserting a place for Indian textile in luxury fashion is a cause, but adopting the same ethos in men’s accessories segment is a niche concept. Please tell us about the inception of the brand, Goulian Finch?
Gunjan: We started the project way back in 2012. We wanted to find an exquisite pocket square that was not the usual printed satin twill. The best brands also used printing on the pocket squares. While most Indian designers were using leftover materials as pocket squares, we wanted it to have an identity and personality in itself – not a ‘leftover’ or an ‘afterthought’. The big idea was to create something woven by hand, thread-by-thread. The journey took us to the magical lanes and by-lanes of the legendary city of Benaras.
Bejoy: The dream was to revive and re-imagine the lost art of hand weaving. The weavers told us that the maharajas used to wear hand woven rumaals, made with silk. Their forefathers used to create those masterpieces. We found it fascinating. The pieces of the jigsaw were falling in place, so was the roadmap of a mission. Pocket squares that were entirely hand-made and captured the grandeur of a golden era were the first step in that grand journey.
What made you choose the traditional Benarasi handloom weaving art form for the pocket squares? Can we expect to see other textile weaves in the future?
Gunjan: We looked at quite a few weaving techniques and came across the Benarasi technique, where the weavers could do the pocket squares without the threads coming out. That left us amazed, as mastering the art of weaving is not a simple task. It took the designer and team of weavers almost three years of hardship to hand-weave a 16x16 inch piece, with small motifs on a traditional loom that is meant to weave a saree. We are keen on exploring more weave styles, but the research will take its time.
Exquisite heritage craft involving the rich and luxurious gold and zari threads create the ultimate design symphony in your pocket squares. We are intrigued to learn more about your creative mood board.
Gunjan: I have dreamy childhood memories of zari. My mother had a few master-pieces weaved from Benaras in gold zari. For the longest time, I wondered if I could get something like that for the love of my life. Thus began a life-altering quest, in search of the ‘Golden Fleece’ so to speak–the perfect gold zari. Luckily, I ended up laying my hands on it, although the journey of creative evolution remains a work-in-progress.
What fabrics and surface textures have you used over the years, to create the masterpieces you are known for?
Gunjan: We tried quite a few styles of hand painting, kantha, etc., but nothing came close to the feel of Benarasi craft, carred out on high-quality mulberry silk cloth.
Uplifting the weavers and local artisans is the true essence of reviving the textile heritage. What inspired you to build a community that is all about celebrating these unsung heroes?
Gunjan: I have nurtured an obsession for Benarasi weaves since I was a child. It’s mesmerising to see the weave come together. Did you know that if the weavers even lift their eyes for a second, the whole weave goes wrong? They are artists whom the world is forgetting, and I wanted to bring them back into the light, and hopefully give them some hope. They were initially reluctant, because weaving 16 inches takes them a lot more time and effort. But then they started mastering it, and today, they do it fluently.
How do you think men’s accessories as a segment has evolved in India over the last decade?
Bejoy: The men’s segment is becoming smarter, aware, and more cosmopolitan with the changing trends. There’s an appreciation for local legacies, stepping away from clichés, and trying bespoke experiences. It’s an exciting time of evolution for the fashion industry.
Finally, the fashion industry is waking up to the calls of ethics. What role does it play in your brand?
Bejoy: We want to be known as a house that respects the aspirations of a new generation. A house that champions lost art forms and wishes to revive their heritage, and one which plays a small, but important role in building a new expression and palate for fashion.
What can we expect next from the house of Goulian Finch?
Gunjan: Plenty of happy surprises in the coming time. Let’s start with something I am extremely passionate about—World’s first Rudraksh cufflink. It should be in stores by late January 2020.