My first meeting with Karuna Balloo dates back to 2012. And I am still under the spell of her large graphic fabric flowers, to be worn or hung on the wall, like a painting.
By Sandrine Merle.
Karuna Balloo creates flowers that defy the laws of the ephemeral, with strikingly bright associations of red and pink. The infinitely poetic, powdery correspondences adopt shades of mauve, pink, ivory, cloud grey. Her favorite fabric is vintage silk organza, which she tirelessly hunts down in the boutiques around the Saint-Pierre market and at garage sales. “It’s crackly and thick, and has nothing to do with the stuff that’s made today! “, she explains. During the lockdown, she rediscovered meters and meters of it that had accumulated in her family’s closets! Her latest find: a superb vintage gold lamé from the house of Yves Saint Laurent.
The influence of India
The idea of a fabric flower comes from her native Mauritius – an island where African, Chinese, European and Indian influences intermingle. Karuna Balloo recalls her grandmother, her aunts and her mother with long black hair illuminated by fresh flowers during festivals. Her father, grandfather and great-grandfather were gardeners. “At a very young age, I realized that flowers mollify relationships between people,” she explains. Noting the positive responses to a pretty flower in her hair at Parisian soirées, she has turned it into something of a personal hallmark.
With these flowers, she revisits the ancestral art of folding discovered during a trip to Japan: tsumami, which can be translated as “ornamentation by pinching” or “meticulous pinched work”. There are only 5 tsumami masters left in the entire Japanese archipelago… When practised according to the traditional rules, this textile origami requires infinite patience: in her Parisian workshop, Karuna Balloo spends hours cutting small squares of silk that she then folds with pliers to form triangular petals. Assembled and finished with delicate pistils from old milliner’s stocks, they then become these graphic flowers. Her most recent creations were made from a sari handed down by her grandmother. A way of remembering her perfume…