In conversation with Palak Shah, CEO of Ekaya Banaras
The young custodian in a family that has been preserving Banarasi textile traditions for over four generations.
What made the Mehfooz campaign unique for you?
In whatever I do, for Ekaya or otherwise, I need to take out the time to reflect upon an idea, feel it, embrace it. If it speaks to me beyond an afternoon, that’s when I go ahead with it and work out ways to bring it to life. I love the idea of mehfooz. I didn’t know of the word before. When I understood what it stood for, it struck a very personal chord with me.
When we were putting the Mehfooz campaign together, we did our best to simplify it and express it succinctly, without compromising its depth and delicacy. If the campaign prompted women to think about their own perfect private moment as a means of strength, inspiration and creative nourishment, it has served its purpose.
I think storytelling is everything. It applies to everything, especially any activity you approach with passion. It transports you to a different universe.
What does storytelling mean to you?
I think storytelling is everything. It applies to everything, especially any activity you approach with passion. It transports you to a different universe and everyone’s story – and method of storytelling - is different. It reveals so much about a person. Awareness of someone’s story can change your perception of them completely, which in turn, hopefully, enriches the relationship you share with that person. It just goes to show how powerful storytelling is as a platform for communication.
Tell us a little bit about bringing together the banarasi weave with chikankari.
The beauty of this collection lies in its ‘new-ness.’ The name Ekaya itself stands for the birth of something new. We learned something new as a brand, we gave something new (yet familiar) to the audience and we hoped to delight them, by leaving a lot of things to discovery. By combining the essence of skill and precision across two craft traditions, we were able to introduce the element of ‘the pleasant surprise.’ We realised there was creative excitement and anticipation for everyone involved, including and especially the weavers. Hopefully, the Mehfooz collection is the first of many, wherein we keep reinventing the expression of traditional methods in luxury fashion and keep celebrating the multifaceted identity of the Ekaya woman.
The Mehfooz collection is the first of many, wherein we keep reinventing the expression of traditional methods in luxury fashion and keep celebrating the multifaceted identity of the Ekaya woman.
What does a Longform Life mean to you?
I feel creatively recharged when I discover and learn something new – be it about a thought process, emotion or a person. To absorb different perspectives is to broaden one’s horizon. It paves the way for an in-depth appreciation that gradually changes – and enhances the way one approaches everything in life. This is the foundation of the Longform Life for me.
A deeply personal guide to Banaras through the eyes of Palak Shah
Banaras is home for me. It’s also the home of the brand. I look forward to my Sunday routine in Banaras. I love visiting my farmhouse in Sarnath and eating samosas, chaat and gulab jamun from one particular place. It’s reclusive if you don’t know it, but if you visited Sarnath, anyone would be able to tell you about their local culinary secret hiding in plain sight.
An unforgettable start to your day would be Subah-e-Banaras. It’s a surreal, sometimes emotional and grounding experience that begins at the break of dawn. It’s the best way to connect with the spirit of Banaras. As the rays of the Sun begin to spread, the boat journey along the ghats allows you feel the pulse of the city. You can immerse yourself in the peace and tranquillity of arti prayers and chants.
A tour of the ghats makes for an enlightening experience. Morning arti at Kashi Vishwanath Temple or the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple is unmissable. I would also recommend a visit to Sarnath and of course, the iconic Banaras Hindu University.
You’ll need an empty stomach when you visit Banaras. Even if you’ve eaten the food elsewhere before, it’s simply done differently there, it has a unique identity. Visit the local sweet shops forKheer Kadam, Milk Cakes and Malai Sandwiches or Malai Puri, but leave some space for Deena ki Chaat! Also, there truly is nothing like the Banarasi Paan, anywhere, in the world.
I have the best reason to love Banaras for what it is, exactly as it is – Banaras is my home. It’s where I grew up. It makes me nostalgic. It has nothing but stories to tell, after all, Banaras is one of the oldest cities in the world. Leave what you understand about yourself behind. Let go; and then enter Banaras.