The traditional Parsi Gara embroidery must be your latest buy


Whether it is designer Zenobia S Davar of ZS Designs ( or other designers, all have looked back to Gara. And so must you. Know why.


Embroideries are one such tradition that form an integral part of the definition of luxury in India. The myriad forms of embroideries in India are an abundant repository since every state and region boasts of its own style. It is not merely a means of ornamentation but stories of different communities, with motifs emerging from its natural surroundings, economic state and socio-political milieu.

Now these forgotten forms of luxury are being popularized. The designers in India as well as globally are looking back towards these techniques. Labels like Gucci, Valentino, Alberta Ferretti, Maison Margiela and Christian Dior work with the Mumbai-based embroidery firm Chanakya, while Roberto Cavalli, Salvatore Ferragamo, Versace and Michael Kors have collaborated with another firm, Adity Designs.

Gara embroidery is one of the traditional embroideries integral to the wardrobes of Parsi women and an amalgamation of influences from India, China, Persia and Europe; popular among Parsi brides with the intricate motifs on fabrics ranging from pagodas and dragons to roses, lotuses, roosters and peacocks in perilously close stitches, seamless shading, and the painstakingly small Chinese knots.

“I lose my sleep if I do not get it right. I rip open all the stitches if they aren’t perfect. I would spend my summer vacations helping an old Parsi lady in our colony with her embroidery work. It’s painting with a needle,” told Mumbai-based designer Zenobia S. Davar to DNA. An exquisitely embroidered six yards of fabric can cost as much as Rs 1 lakh and more.

“It’s fluid design and form is what makes it appealing,” said the Delhi-based designer Ashdeen Z. Lilaowala. Lilaowala even collaborated with textile label Ekaya in 2016 to create handwoven gara Banarasi silks.

These traditional embroideries are making a grand come back on the ramp and similarly in your closet. Get ready!

Zenobia Davar's Creations

Zenobia Davar's Creations

Case Study By Cherie Blair Foundation

Zenobia runs a fashion boutique called ZS Embroidery which specialises in hand-stitched embroidery. She is recognised across India as an expert in her craft and is proud to keep the beautiful tradition of hand-made embroidery alive.

Zenobia was first introduced to traditional hand stitching at school. Unlike most children her age, she was inspired by the intricate designs and was eager to practice at home. However, it wasn’t until many years and two children later that Zenobia was encouraged by her mother-in-law to leave her job as a secretary and pursue her dream of studying fashion and garment manufacturing. She graduated at the top of her class and was thrilled to start her business as a fashion designer.

Zenobia worked from home for 12 years, balancing her career with raising her children. She knew that she was capable of creating beautiful, high-quality products, such as dresses, wall hangings and cushion covers, but without the knowledge and skills to harness technology, she struggled to market her business and expand her customer base.

When Zenobia joined the Mentoring Women in Business Programme in 2014, her goal was to build her digital literacy and marketing skills to help her advertise more widely, enter new markets and increase her sales. Zenobia was matched with Ximena, an entrepreneur who runs a digital agency in Mexico. The pair met online every week and Ximena’s expertise in digital design enabled her to support Zenobia to access resources and tutorials on everything from setting up a webpage to uploading pictures. She even inspired Zenobia to take courses to improve her IT knowledge and start using Photoshop.

Zenobia and Ximena next turned their focus to expanding Zenobia’s customer base. They added a payment function to her website to open up her business to the global market and started diversifying her products to include homeware and embroidered frames. Zenobia said, “Initially, I was scared of computers and latest technology, but I have learnt how to make as well as manage my own website through the tutorials sent by Ximena. It has built my self-confidence and made me digital savvy.”

Since joining the programme, Zenobia’s business has seen significant growth. She has gained eight new clients, nearly 2,800 Facebook likes, and has started successfully selling products in the US, Europe, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. She has also increased her revenue by 40% and already has several months’ worth of advance orders, which has enabled her to rent out a workshop and hire six new employees.

Over the course of the year, Ximena and Zenobia developed such a strong bond that they chose to complete a second year together. Zenobia said, “She is a friend, philosopher and guide to me. It’s more than a mentoring relationship, it’s more like family.” Likewise, Ximena said she is proud of Zenobia and delighted to have made a life-long friend.

Feeling confident about her skills and her business, Zenobia has started to teach high-end embroidery to others and one day dreams of opening an art and design institute where she can share her passion even more widely. In the meantime, she has now joined the programme as a mentor, keen to inspire other women entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams.


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The Challenges

The designs are complex and unique which demands proper training of the workers, Zenobia marked that retaining employees is a challenge as this is a niche work which needs more effort unlike other embroideries that requires less effort and more money. She further added that marketing gave a tough time as she doesn't own a store and the products are of high quality and limited. She only manufactures when there is a need for that particular piece.


Ms, Priya Krishnaswams, a film maker, was inspired by Zenobia‘s Garas and made a film showcasing garas to promote the authentic dying art.  This film was named as "Gangoobai" which was produced by NFDC.

Zenobia is also a mentor and teaches students from various college of Fashion and design. She managed to get the fist position in a fashion show for Symbiosis students. Even people from Gujrat are requesting her to teach them the techniques of Gara Embroidery.

Zenobia‘s success story doesn‘t end here She is a member of Cherie Blair Foundation which works for women entrepreneurship. Cherie Blair with other associates appreciated her design and presented her a signed biography and memento in the form of china plate of London. Zenobia not only does embroidery on clothing but also achieved to portrait on different sizes of frames. Those frames can be used in increasing the glory of anyone‘s home décor or an ofice chamber too. Mrs. Blair uses one of Zenobia‘s portraits in her office as was gifted by Zenobia.

Zenobia has also organized a fishion show and an exhibition in Dubai, December 2014 where her work had been recognized by all over the world.

By the end of our conversation, I was deeply inspired by Zenobia in terms of providing value to our culture and heritage and preserving it. She is really an inspiration to all of us. The Journey has just stated for Zenobia and she has yet to travel more. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder so lets preserve it.

About The Author

Banani Das

Banani Das is a blogger and an avid writer.  She loves meeting people listens to their unheard stories and features them in the best possible way.

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We are the City l Female Entrepreneur Zenobia S. Davar

Read the new article by about Zenobia Davar

Small extract of the article:

I am Zenobia S. Davar, a fashion designer by profession. I am a Parsi and follow the Zoroastrian religion. I was born as the first daughter to Noshir and Hutoxi Vajifdar on 06 January 1968. I have two siblings, Anahita and Parizad. I did my schooling at J.B. Vatcha High school and was always passionate about embroidery right from my school days... Read more


Banani's Blog l Zenobia Davar Creations

What can be more beautiful than having a Parsi lunch and discussing about their authentic garas. The lunch table was decorated with plain rice, chappatis, fish fry, chutney da patty (a parsi cuisine) mixed vegetable stir fry, prawn curry and ice cream.
All these delicacies are made by my guest who is none other than Zenobia Davar. A lady who is well known for retaining the authenticity of the Garas (Parsi embroidery). Zenobia was passionate about embroidery right from her childhood. Seeing such interest, her husband and mother in law suggested her to take up designing as a profession. Her career started when she joined a 3 year diploma course in Fashion and Garment Manufacturing at Sophia Polytechnic.

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