Your name, background and earliest textile memories?
My name is Shahnaz Begum. I was born in Bangladesh and I came to England when I was 5-6 months. My earliest memories would be my mother wearing all of the saris. She had a lot of saris. That’s my earliest memory of my mum wearing all of the saris.
Was there a difference between the textiles you saw in Bangladesh and here and where would you find textiles here?
Usually it’s the local Asian shops that I would look for saris. Green Street, Cannon Street and Bethnal Green, if I was to look for saris I would look there. Bengali, Indian, places like that.
What’s your favourite and the ones you like?
I’m more into plain. Jamdani is nice because it’s cotton. I don’t like the ones with the heavy beads or sequins because it irritates my skin. I don’t like silk because I don’t like the swishing sound. Cotton definitely. It’s the memory of sitting on my mum’s lap and the feel of the cotton. ‘Cause obviously when you buy them they’re quite stiff at first then after a few washes they tend to get softer. They starch things in those days in Bangladesh. When I went to Bangladesh when I was 13 I think my grandmother would wear them.
What else do you remember about Jamdani?
Jamdani is cotton. There’s ones that you tend to wear when you’re out and about and at home. I’m not sure if they were Jamdanis until recently. My mum would wear certain ones at home and outside.
What sort of times would you wear Jamdanis?
I think it’s to do with trends, isn’t it really? With trends changing, you get all the flashy ones, or the more simple ones during the trends. My mum would wear certain ones at home rather than outside. Unless you would get really stylish ones you would wear out, when you’re going to your friends. At weddings you would wear more silk.
Tell us about the differences between the types of Jamdanis worn at home and outside?
They were simple, basic cotton made ones. My mum would wear them at home, even in Bangladesh in the villages. You would wear certain type just around the house. I’m not a sari wearer but I do remember my mum, my older sister would wear different types of saris. The ones at home would be cotton saris. That’s my mum, I don’t know about other people!
What do you like about the Jamdani sari and patterns that you liked?
I tended to like the more simple ones, even with the borders and plain in the middle. If I did wear it I would go for more plain ones. The flashy ones did hurt my eyes and lot or they were a bit over the top for my liking.
Did you ever wear them?
I use to always wear them when you use to get dragged to weddings, I had no choice, I had to put something on! Now I wouldn’t mind wearing them as I’m older. Obviously when you’re younger you get a bit – I would wear stuff from my mum’s collection.
Have you worn other things from your mum’s collection?
Yes saris. I have worn her saris. I didn’t have my own at the time. As I grew older I did buy my own saris.
Have you got a Jamdani amongst them?
No. Obviously I tend to buy if I’m going to weddings. I actually do have saris I’ve only worn once and never worn again. I don’t think I have a Jamdani.
What’s your view about Jamdani in the future and the next generation?
With me I’ve got a son, so I don’t know about passing it down, unless it’s his wife obviously. It would be good ‘cause I like to try and keep a bit of culture. Obviously it’s part of how we grew up and our heritage. It would be good to see but because of trends and fads it tends to go up and down. If it becomes trendy then everyone wants it, then it goes onto the back burner. When you’re a certain age you don’t want to wear what your parents are wearing, but when you get to a certain age you realise how culture can be important and what you’re wearing can be important. It’s good if it stays, though not sure if it will.
Any other thoughts about Jamdani… do you see people wearing it on the streets?
I probably have during the summer, but I’m not going to go up and touch it. I assume people are more likely to wear it during the summer because it’s cotton, it’s lighter, it’s a softer feel. My mum use to wear it, but no longer. I haven’t seen it recently. I’ve not gone out looking to buy saris for any reason. If the print is nice I would buy it if I’m going to a wedding, but I’ve got no plans on buying any at the moment.