BENGALURU : Costume designer and stylist Arjun Bhasin covered the length and breath of our country’s clusters, showcasing the versatility of our textiles in the recently-launched Netflix show, A Suitable Boy. It features over 1,100 saris and dupattas, which alone contributed to 6,000 metres of handloom fabric. One wonders how the beauty and versatility of this garment has only evolved over centuries and still makes for a strong statement.
Last week, at the digital Lakme Fashion Week, as part of the special ‘All About India’ show that focused on the importance of artisans and crafts of India, artist-designer Payal Khandwala showcased a limited release of Jamdani saris reimagined in her signature colour-blocked silks.
The scale of the traditional motifs that are typically smaller in jamdani, either floral or geometric, were redesigned as an extension of the brand’s more modern wildflower print story, to be both exaggerated and graphic.
Reminiscing one of her recent sari series, Payal often wondered: How does one innovate an Indian essential that is already perfect?
The solution had to be effortless and fuss free, the idea was to offer customers flexibility, a way in which one could wear the same sari, with the same drape and same blouse, yet somehow still make it look different. This was the starting point for the ‘Gemini reversible’ line of saris, mirrored and designed in a way that they could simply be flipped. This alters the look in a small, albeit significant way. Reimagined to be modular, you can reuse and repeat them while feeling and looking a little different each time.
Having previously collaborated on The Sari Series — a digital anthology documenting India’s various sari drapes -- Bengaluru-based brand consultant and founder of Border and Fall, Malika V Kashyap, and Delhi-based designer Rashmi Varma, synonymous for her versatile sari dresses, founded Kumari - a brand offering a singular style garment which essentially is a dress inspired by the sari. Says Malika, “We have a deep belief in the transformative power of this dress, that as a garment can be worn many times, and in many different ways. Our collections are made from a mix of overstock textiles and vintage saris, and sustainability is very much part of the DNA.”
Kumari offers a tailored concept of sari in many variations, one style which can be worn in ‘infinite ways’. Their newly-launched website has four drops this season -- basic solids, bridal, florals and, my favourite, the ‘twice loved’ series -- each one of a kind and made from upcycled and pre-loved vintage saris, sourced from various textile vendors and sari collectors. They also have a special offering of a barter where you can send in your old saris for a new Kumari. Each Kumari is infinitely adaptable and can be styled and draped in many ways.
As the most versatile piece of garment, the sari has been around beyond ages, reinvented over time in various forms and materials, making a seamless transition between generations that have made innovations with the limitless concept of the sari. However, in modern times, the lack of convenience of draping the whole six yards from scratch has given rise to concept, pre-constructed saris, which are practical, comfortable and have the fluidity of a dress without the fuss of draping and pleating.
Personally, I like my six yards at an intersection where tradition meets modern, and I am always on the lookout for designers who have reinvented and explored the sari, giving a modern spin to the traditional weave and drape. Repurposed, reversible or remagined – the story of this sartorial six-yard style is here to stay.
(The writer is a lifestyle consultant and mindful fashion advocate)