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Paiwand Studio: On Transcending Waste

Updated: May 15, 2020

The story begins over five years ago, when House of Wandering Silk began making clothing and we couldn’t bear to throw away even the tiniest scraps of our beautiful fabric. Over the years we collected every remnant, just waiting for the right opportunity to give them a second life.

Around the same time, a young student named Ashita started design school and was having a similar intuition around the byproducts of the fashion industry. Over the following years, Ashita would meet Wajahat, a teacher at her school by day and a painter by night. Eventually he’d become her business partner and creative collaborator on her new business, Paiwand Studio.

In early 2019 we began our collaboration with Paiwand by dropping several car loads of our scrap fabric, representing many different textile obsessions, to their studio. Under Ashita’s guidance, every piece was sorted by fibre into cohesive color families; painstakingly cut into strips and crafted into longer lengths of flat yarn; and then hand woven on simple wooden looms according to a very intuitive color mapping sequence envisioned by Ashita.

No two pieces of fabric are, or ever will be, the same, just as nature favours. With one meter of fabric taking roughly a day to weave, it’s no wonder this project has extended over eight months. The result of this laborious process is far more beautiful and captivating than one could imagine.

It’s a story of of rebirth. Of imagination. And the textile as the point at which they meet.

On a humid day mid-monsoon I took a trip to Noida, a sprawling industrial suburb of Delhi, to visit Ashita and Wajahat at their studio. Over steaming mugs of Kashmiri kahwa, we talked about the genesis of Paiwand, the creativity of craftsmen, and working as collaborators in the fashion industry.


The Beginnings

House of Wandering Silk (HOWS)So how did you get started with Paiwand?

Ashita/Paiwand Studio — I’ve always enjoyed working with limited resource materials and that’s been a point of motivation for me. I started studying design and when any assignment required material, I would ask what is the easiest thing that’s available? And the easiest thing that was always available to us, living in Delhi, was trash. The first material I tried weaving was polythene plastic bags. This was the first iteration of Paiwand.

I remember in design school, we had a lot of students who weren’t from Delhi, and in conversations they would talk about the mountains, the beaches, about beauty. About growing up in a forest. And I used to think, what stories do I have to share with them and I would think about going to the malls. They would say, ‘oh we used to take baths in the river,’ and I used to think, ‘I’ve never had that sense in my life of being close to nature’. I had to ask myself what am I really close to? It’s garbage. Delhi is surrounded by garbage. You see it, you see the pollution.

And that really started to make me anxious about things. I started to think this is not the life I want to be in. It really upset me and I kept thinking this shouldn’t be my story, I don’t belong here. As I was studying design, I started questioning myself, asking ‘why am I doing this?’ So whenever we came up with a new design - no matter how aesthetically pleasing it was - I’d always have to ask, ‘what is the reason behind this and what’s the cause?’ It felt like there were so many designers in the market and I decided I didn’t want to be another of the same, so I started to look for the answers to the questions that troubled me - ‘what am I doing? What is my contribution as a designer? As a Delhi-ite?’

At the same time, textiles started interesting me a lot. Because fabric and textiles are the basis of fashion, I began noticing I’d base all my projects in school around t