Founded in India almost three years ago, SGBG Atelier is a mother and son owned fashion house creating garments based on centuries old weaving techniques. Intent on keeping their history alive Looms follows Surya and Bindu Giri on their mission to inspire future generations of designers.
In 2016, musician Surya Giri flew from The University of Chicago back home to his mother in Chennai, India. After years of struggling with his identity while living in a society where racial prejudice was prevalent he was moved by his mother Bindu's dedication to the ancient technique of creating hand-loom garments. Inspired, Surya decided to dedicate his life to working alongside her and learning the ways of a craft that has been a part of India’s creative history for generations.
Together they formed SGBG Atelier: a womenswear label created using Surya's multifaceted creative spirit and Bindu's knowledge of weaving and embroidery.
“For decades post-colonial rule, Indian artisans have struggled to stay afloat due to the lack of demand, awareness and heavy industrialization,” Surya says. “Mass-manufacturing, aggressive tax policies, immense colonial repercussions and the adoption of power looms resulted in the death of numerous art forms and practices. But those practices still today produce unparalleled quality, character and finish.”
SGBG Atelier allows Surya to create clothing imbued with emotion; that speaks to his heritage but also to the world. “Working alongside my mother in India has become a project of roots, discovery, and an attempt to build a brand that hopefully has strong potential for change across all levels of the funnel - from grassroots production to conscious consumption to development initiatives for these under-represented communities,” he says. “We’ve been challenging and hopefully overturning some assumptions about Asian design. South Asia has such a stunning, powerful set of stories to tell.”
For the designs, Surya utilized his musical skills to create abstract soundscapes which then informed Bindu's designs. Looms, directed by Taylor Jones, takes us to India, directly into the loom studio in which the garments are created. We see first-hand not just the meticulous detail in the embroidery, but the painstaking hand-stitching and the fascinating mechanics of the wooden loom, feeding off the wooden spools of thread hung on a nearby wall.
It takes a lot of willpower to dedicate your life to a profession largely centered around reams of tangled thread, but for Surya and Bindu SGBG Atelier is a vehicle to bring ancient stalwarts of India's cultural history to the fore, showing the world the power they can wield when adapted for pioneering design.
Fashion is a lens that tells us what we value as a society.
“Pride in my country’s artistic heritage, pride in my people, pride in my melanin was hard-earned,” Surya says. “I only began to fit into my own skin through building these other skins – these other layers of myself – in clothing and music”.
“I’m proud of course, but even more so I feel a sense of responsibility towards particular under-represented communities and arts,” he continues. “Our generation is so blessed to have immediate access to all this knowledge but what do we do with that power? We need to ensure our communities are rising with us. Today’s kids need to know that they can be whoever they want to be. The past is a great teacher. But so is the future.”