A child of tradition from the land of culture and pageantry, Palak Shah, CEO, Ekaya Banaras hails from a family known for preserving the true Indian textile for over 120 years. Her sharp business acumen, combined with a spirit of intelligent marketing acuteness, deep curiosity for the world, and a fierce pride in Indian textiles, has been a driving force behind Ekaya’s success and growth. One of the key elements of her business strategy is the readiness to embrace heritage by using it as a springboard for inspiration.

Palak has helped Ekaya bring a newer, younger and bolder life to the story of textiles in India, which in turn ensures the brand’s foothold and eminence. In just a span of five years it stands as the pioneer of handloom luxury in India. We speak to her about her success route and all things Banaras, edited excerpts from our conversation...

After studying business management at King’s College London, you moved back to India. What has been the driving force behind Ekaya’s success and growth?

While I was at Kings, I was always curious as to why a sari could not be sold in the same way as a luxury handbag is sold. As anything that is handcrafted should be considered luxurious, but that is not the case in our country. I incorporated that aspect in Ekaya, through my choice of textiles. The idea was to give Indian textiles it’s rightful place in the global fashion market.

Ekaya reflects a vision of modern aesthetic amalgamated with Indian art forms. Warm, engaging and special, it offers a signature experience of modern India and its treasures. What have been the measures taken by you to help take the family business forward and shape it for a new era?

We are a contemporary brand and I try to keep up with the changing time, yet incorporate it in the traditional way of promoting textiles. Selling textiles in India has become archaic, and repeating, what has been an old practice had to be revamped. So, I went ahead by engaging in collaborations, marketing strategies and associations to make it more relevant.

Your colour palette, on the other hand, is more contemporary, featuring pastel shades that are more popular today. What made you choose these hues?

I have always kept myself in the consumers shoes, and think from their perspective. Fortunately enough I am well versed with the world and decently fashion forward, and if I find something appealing for myself; then I am sure it would be appreciated by millennials from my generation. That has been my inspiration behind choosing colours, textiles and style choices. It is a 100 per cent humanistic approach.

What are the exquisite and rare Indian textile specimens in your collection?

We have started an initiative at Ekaya, called The Revival Service , wherein we revive old techniques that are no longer used today.  We take in people’s 100 year old sari and revive it, we teach the weavers the old method that is long gone by, and learn something new ourselves about our blessed heritage.

How do you think your brand stands out from it’s counterparts of the industry?

It’s because of our infrastructure, and the way we have been positioned. We have a team of more than 8,000 weavers, which gives us an insight into their world. Our expertise strengthens from the fact that we have a strong legacy of creating what the market requires, and we know the best way to create it. 

Today, millenial’s are inclined towards Indian sensibilities than their western obsessed predecessors. Do you feel the wave of change with your customers?

Most definitely, I think today we are feeling closer to our country and roots more than ever. Millennial’s are embracing their culture in such a positive way, in order to stand out from the crowd. And I believe standing closer to your roots is an ideal way to stand out from what is conventional. 

Tell us about Thaan .

Thaan , is my baby that I launched in 2017. It is India’s first ever textile gallery where you can purchase textiles too.  It houses 1000 distinct fabrics from Banaras, hence it shows the true potential of what Banaras has to offer, thereby not limiting it to weaves, butis and paisleys. There’s snake skin, geometric aesthetics and abstract designs that create a soulful space, which helps us put forward Indian textiles in everyday lives. But in future I do want to create it as a concept store, with all things Banaras.

A 120 year old craft, your designs introduce aesthetic with new techniques into the design vocabulary. What made you fill this gap?

It is essential to walk with modern times, and fashion for me is a way to be able to do that. It is a language of the unspoken word, yet it communicates so much. And adaptability comes in very handy here, because without it we would not be able to keep the craft alive. People need to relate to a tradition and we make it more fulfilling for them.

You have had successful collaborations with prominent designer labels. Which tasteful collaboration is next on  the cards?

I am looking at a rather different collaboration this time, one that brings a whole product line under our label. We have always engaged  with people who have something different  to bring to the table, and that is what we are eyeing upon next.

Chitman Kanwar Ahuja

Chitman Kanwar Ahuja is a feature writer at L'Officiel India. She is a silver jewellery hoarder and an aesthete of all arts. You can find her unraveling new stories day in and day out.