ABURY meets cocccon designer Georg Andreas Suhr
Posted on 08 November 2016
Georg Andreas Suhr is an artist, designer, creative director, entrepreneur and above all a lover of all things India! He runs his own label with organic non-violence silk scarves (Ahimsa Silk) under the brand "GEORGE by cocccon". Georg Andreas frequently travels to main fashion week events in India and Europe, and writes monthly articles for European and Indian design, lifestyle and fashion professional magazines. He is an active and passionate participant in the sustainable fashion scene, while focusing on the integration of ancient Indian traditions into his beautiful designs.
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Design · Love · Passion
ABURY is all about handicrafts. We believe that “hands tell stories“. What do your hands tell about you?
I was supposed to become a piano player… However I always preferred to use my tall hands in a different way. My hands love the feel of paper, fabrics and other natural materials and they still have something great in petto. They love to work analogue and the direct connection to the surface. Unfortunately they are useless when it comes to meticulous work - I am going crazy just by watching jewellery or watch designers. If asked my hands, they would tell me: Go on! Now! Do it!
What is the last thing you created with your hands?
My daily meals - my hands are particularly good at kneading Chapati-dough. In fashion it was the block-printing in New Delhi and the crafting of upcycling-accessories our of leftovers and things that I needed for a shooting.
Looking back on everything you’ve done in your life - What is the one thing you are proudest of?
That I can always rely on my gut feelings and do everything with love and passion. I do not allow anyone to bend or distort me and I’m thinking out of the box… Material things (and results) are less important to me - if something is done I can barely wait to start something new; nevertheless I need something tangible in the end. I love the process from shaping an idea to the final product, whereas I don't always have to finish everything. Some things require more time than others…
If you could choose, what would you like to be able to do with your hands?
Save the world and masterly play piano at the same time!
“One of a mind” underlines our strong belief in equality and the value of sharing. How does intercultural exchange benefit our society in your eyes?
I do not know any borders - not geographically, culturally nor religiously - and it is important to me to retain the inner curious child in me. That enables me to always discover and learn more. I am intrigued with traditional handicraft and the cultural diversity I have met during my travels.
With fascination I watch the young generation of designers, artists or dancers that are proud of their culture and mix them with influences from other, mostly western cultures, to create something new and unique. I strongly wish to preserve these treasures and hope that there will always be a next generation willing to preserve our cultural heritage and develop it further using fusions. We must get more strongly connected and foster intercultural exchange, especially in times that societies isolate again and new borders are built.
How did you get in touch with the rich culture of India?
It all started with the book Nada Brahma - The World is Sound! I had the rare privilege to go on tour with Prof. Joachim-Ernst Behrendt also known as “Prof. Jazz” in the eighties. Back then I sang in a choir and we accompanied him during his lecturing tour about Nada Bahma. Hardly any book has fascinated and influenced me like this one. Later I was a supporter of Bhagwan (OSHO), which was rather a kind of rebellion against the establishment - Find cool what everybody warns you of! Nonetheless, the book Tantra - Die höchste Einsicht von OSHO was the second book related to India that had a lasting effect on me.
Due to my passion for patterns, ornaments and symbols I have started to deal with Indian art and culture at an early stage, long before I travelled the country for the first time. The dance (Kathak) made me visit India for the first time. Thanks to the culture exchange with India I came to Kolkata to write a concept for a dance drama based on the Indian and German culture. Since then I travel to India regularly and apart from the biggest fashion weeks in Mumbai and New Delhi I also visit designers, labels, fashion brands, production facilities and artisans.
What differentiates India from other countries? What does it have that no other culture has?
Everything - Incredible India! It is loud, it is colourful, it is exotic, it is extravagant, it is chaotic… I would never describe India as a country. Because of its many states with their own culture and own languages it seems more like a continent. A person who wants to understand India cannot look at it as a country. It is so diverse like no other culture and so closely connected to religious rituals and traditions. Indians are proud of the culture and of Mother India. It is the people that define a culture and shape it. Indians have an incredible talent in coping with things differently without letting anyone change that.
Compared to other cultures it is the diversity and the multifaceted art and culture. Surely the caste system is a significant feature of India, but it is being looked at critically by other western cultures. Like many things in life everything has two sides to it…
What was your most memorable moment in India?
This is the question that is most difficult to answer. I never travelled India as a tourist but mostly experienced it “alone amongst Indians”. There are endless unforgettable moments with friends - be it at a private sitar concert on a rooftop bar in Kolkata, a relaxed time out in Kerala, inward peace in Shantiniketan, drifting through the streets and alleys of Kolkata without a particular destination in mind or the long nights of creative exchange with friends, colleagues, artists or designers.
One of the most unforgettable moments was visiting the Kali temple in Kolkata. Usually the entrance is forbidden for foreigners. It is a place with an incredible energy - joy and sorrow go hand in hand here. Thanks to a befriended Brahmane I got the opportunity to stand right in front of the Kali statue and to be blessed by the priests. As it is common in Indian temples it was overcrowded and everybody tried to catch a quick glimpse of Kali. People around me kept throwing offerings out of the emotionally charged crowd in direction of the altar. It was loud and hectic. It was one moment in life that will not happen again so soon and the first time that I was deeply connected with a deity. A moment of happiness and a resource that still fuels me today.
How would you describe the “Tastes of India” and what is your favourite?
Spicy & Tasty. The culinary delights in India are as diverse as the cultures. For me as a vegetarian it is the ultimate place on earth. Again and again I discover local specialities that range from spicy to super sweet. Malai Kofta is not equal to Malai Kofta: I had to learn that very soon here - it tastes so differently in the different regions. A conversation with Indians from different regions about ingredients in the original Beriani recipes can easily turn into a big argument. Having at least three meals a day is one of the most important rituals in India. Sometimes I get the impression that everything is about food. Cooking with friends is always a very special event but unfortunately Indians are very particular and secretive about their recipes.
I am addicted to Idlys, which I am starting my day with, for lunch I love to have a Kati roll and I finish the evening with a culinary highlight from the different regions. In between there is always room for a sweet delicacy from West Bengal - they are the masters of the Indian bakery- and kitchen art. And of course everything is eaten with the hands…
At ABURY we love sustainable products; peace silk is a term we had never heard of before we met you. What is peace silk?
Ahimsa silk is also known as “Peace Silk” or “Non-Violence Silk”. The word Ahimsa comes from sanskrit and means free from violence. In the conventional silk production the worm is killed in hot water. In contrast, our process starts by cutting open the cocoon so that the butterfly can hatch. This method is not only a lot more time-consuming but it also requires more work when it comes to the processing of the raw silk. This effort is totally worth it as we love butterflies and want to give them the life they deserve. After all it is the butterfly that procures supplies of the silk. During the entire production process we do not use chemicals.
I am always astonished about the respect towards animals. If I enter a shoe store I always get the same question. Vegan or leather? There is always an alternative for everything and even the global fast-food chains in India do not sell beef or pork out of respect for the religions.
You are a designer, a lecturer and a consultant - how do your professions connect?
I am a passionate designer: my heart beats for designing different things. I have always had a strong drive to forward my knowledge to the next generation, and so it happened that by now I have already been a teacher in communication design at the design academie berlin for more than 20 years. Due to the fact that my design work has always been based on a concept I specialised more in the area of strategies, positioning and concepts in the last couple of years. The combination of these three occupations paired with my complex knowledge are what makes me a special expert. I do not dread trying out new things and I am always happy to say YES if a project is awaking enthusiasm…
We are delighted to add some of cocoon’s products to our selection. Which of those products is your favourite and why?
Here, two hearts beat in my chest. On the one hand it is the handwoven silk scarves with block print motives and on the other hand it is the satin silk shawls with digital print motives. After a long process of sourcing we found a suitable partner for digital printing in India who could print with eco-friendly ink in high quality onto our silk. It was the very first time I could make the designs for the collection “Colors of India”. I was inspired by “mandalas” and “rangolis”. The typical patterns should be visible upon first sight. One would recognise endless small stories and moments of India’s ever day life only when taking a closer look.
Visiting the block printing house in New Delhi is always a very special experience. I love the old printing method and the traditional handicraft. Some of the wood blocks are more than hundred years old. With the latest scarfs collection the big challenge was to transfer the modern graphical designs with wood blocks onto the scarf.
© All photos via cocccon