What do Africa, England, Canada and India have in common? The common thread is of one individual – Jayshree Khimasia, born of Gujarati (Indian) parents in Kenya, educated in England and now living in Canada.
Throughout all these moves, her creativity has always had a unique spin. Her first creation was a pink mini skirt made while at boarding school in Eastbourne. Miss Pinchback made her tear it apart several times before it met specifications. Since then, she has created clothes, making it a career.
Jayshree comes to life when she describes her coats. One of her favourites that she estimates might weigh about two kilos, is dark chocolate, made from a Gujarati woman’s woven wool blanket and pieced together from three large pieces. The lining is fashioned with lambs wool Bandhani (hand tie-and-dye silk). The piping on the inside of this coat is made from recycled men’s ties, the exterior piping made from gold thread; the button holes are hand-bound. This is a coat worthy of wearing in Canadian winters.
Another coat that exemplifies the importance of “treasuring” fabrics is rich with history. About twenty years ago, Jayshree made a long vest from yellow, hand-woven raw Indian silk. At about the same time, a paisley patterned Kashmiri wool kurta was made for her mother to keep her warm in the damp English weather. Her mother shrank with time, but Jayshree kept the wool, appreciating its colour and softness and in memory of her mother.
One is left with is an appreciation for how these “saved treasures” have been brought back to life again, in unexpected ways, to be used and treasured anew. If you ask Jayshree what will you create next? You will be met by a thoughtful, wordless gaze – and one surmises that she won’t know until she is in the midst of her next creation.