Glyndebourne Shop is proud to stock a range of beautiful scarves from Nova India, which are handmade by craftsmen in India. The range helps to sustain traditional craftsmanship and support the livelihood of families living in small villages across the country.

We spoke to Sandra Walker, the founder of Nova India, to find out the stories behind some of these timelessly elegant fabrics.

How did Nova India come about – what inspired you to create the brand?

Nova India came about 10 years ago when my husband was posted to India. I started browsing the markets of Delhi looking for textiles to furnish our apartment. Having worked in fashion for over 30 years as a designer and buyer it was not long before I found some scarves, which I could not resist buying. Equally my friends could not resist buying from me, so it escalated from there.

My vision was to create a brand that reflected the universal timelessness and diversity of Indian textiles. The young, well educated children of India are moving to the cities, so these traditional skills will soon disappear.

A selection of Nova India fabrics with traditional printing blocks
A selection of Nova India fabrics with traditional printing blocks

Could you tell us a little more about the families and communities that Nova India has supported?

I have worked with the same craftspeople for 10 years, so have become familiar with their stories and their families whilst visiting their towns and villages, from the embroiderers of Kashmir in the north, the weavers of the Kulu Valley in the foothills of the Himalayas, the Indigo printers in the far west of Gujarat and the block printers of Rajasthan.

The small workshop in Delhi that makes the Nova India clothing range has been my anchor and with their care, skill and attention to quality, we have grown together.

Dyeing fabric in GujaratEri silk weavers in Assam
Dyeing fabric in Gujarat and Eri silk weavers in Assam.

I have learned that the climate and seasons play an important part in the production of textiles in India. The monsoon which travels around the country prevents textiles from drying after weaving or dyeing, so you must order your shawls early in the season to beat the rains. Weaving often takes place in spring whilst the villagers wait for their crops to grow. Dyers and printers need flowing water to wash out their fabrics but some of the traditional riverbeds that support large communities are dry. Silkworms feed on specific plants, grown in different regions that produce the different yarns. The Eri silkworm feeds off the castor plant in Assam, producing a shorter yarn than that made from the silkworm feeding off the Mulberry Tree in other regions.

I am working with a village in Assam who have spent the last year producing the yarn, spinning and weaving the silk for Nova India’s range of Eri natural silk scarves. Families have traditional crafts passed down through many generations and are culturally unlikely to change skills.

There are some beautiful Nova India pieces available in our shop, could you tell us a little more about some of them?

Producers are trying to create new ideas, combining traditional weaving with fashion and I thought the lace and cashmere scarf was a great combination. It was made by a family I work with in Kashmir. The beautiful soft cream scarf has a central panel and border in a delicate blue grey lace.

Lace and Cashmere Scarf in the Old Green RoomLace and Cashmere Scarf Close Up
A closer look at the exquisite lace detailing on Nova India's lace and cashmere scarf.

The ombre wool and silk scarves get their sheen from the silk used with wool. The colours are so rich as they are over-dyed. The warp is dyed one colour, the weft another, then the sides are dip-dyed separately so you have 5 colours in each piece. It was interesting working on colour combinations with the weavers from Kashmir on this piece.

Ombre Scarf in the Old Green Room
The ombre scarf, photographed in Glyndebourne's historic Old Green Room.

Glyndebourne is so unique and we have the dilemma of being both inside and outdoors so I would choose a slightly warmer silk or wool stole that is practical but also compliments your dress. Having said that I would always consider the theme of the opera I was about to enjoy!

How do you decide on the designs – where do you draw design inspiration from?

The museums and heritage properties that I supply usually have definite qualities that they are looking for. To satisfy this, I choose and create styles that suit their requirements. From lightweight silk stoles in pretty colours for an impulse buy on a chilly evening, to a beautiful stole for that special event or wedding. Unique handmade or hand-embroidered pieces for the textile lover to throws for interior designers. I select colours that fit with current fashion trends, or my customer’s own collections, but there are always favourites. Design inspiration is everywhere in India from wonderful architecture, ancient crafts, wall tiles, gardens to the colours and patterns of everyday saris.

Embroidering scarves in Bengal
Embroidering scarves in Bengal

In 2018 Nova India featured in a V&A exhibition, ‘The Fabric of India’ - could you tell us more about this? How did it feel to have the fabrics showcased in this way?

That was a thrilling chapter for Nova India. It started with myself and the V&A buying team talking through textiles from different regions in India, then creating pieces which would best represent what was being shown in the exhibition.

I had wool shawls woven in the Punjab, silk coats woven and embroidered in Kashmir, block printed Indigo silks made in Gujarat and even an entire village embroidering silk scarves for three months in Bengal. I designed and made jackets out of silk saris from Chennai in the south. It kept me extremely busy and I travelled miles! I think the V&A were taken by surprise at the show's popularity. Once the show opened, nearly everything sold out, so we had to start this making process all over again, to meet the immediate demand with just weeks to do it in - that was quite a challenge!

Why is your partnership with Glyndebourne so important to you?

Glyndebourne is iconic; a timeless theatre that comes accompanied by beautiful music. Seeing these elegant women in lovely dresses with beautiful shawls makes me so proud that they appreciate the skill of the craftspeople I represent in India.

What’s your favourite opera?

I have to say Carmen is my favourite opera, I never tire of hearing that wonderful music. I love the Spanish setting, the costumes and of course the large Spanish shawls.

Discover Glyndebourne's range from Nova India

  • Embroidered Joseph Coat
    Embroidered Joseph Coat
    Black & Taupe Ikat Coat
    Black & Taupe Ikat Coat
    Wildflower Scarf
    Wildflower Scarf
    Orange Silk Scarf
    Orange Silk Scarf
  • Black Ikat Coat
    Black Ikat Coat
    Turquoise Ikat Coat
    Turquoise Ikat Coat
    Cream Chevron Weave Scarf
    Cream Chevron Weave Scarf
    Rose Pink Silk Scarf
    Rose Pink Silk Scarf