Drape an antique sari - and be in vogue (With images)

April 23rd, 2009 - 12:37 pm ICT by IANS  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, April 23 (IANS) It’s traditional and it’s trendy, the stuff of designer ware and vintage in appeal too, for humble domestics and also alpha women in the corridors of power and showbiz. It’s the drape for all seasons and this summer the sari is going retro.

Traditional benarasi, jacquard, kota, cotton and jamdaani are high on the capital’s sari roster.

In fact, the demand for antique saris - more than 100 years old - and recreated period saris is also growing, says antique textile collector Sobha Deepak Singh, the director of the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra here.

“It used to be a very niche segment, but with the sari being recognised as formal wear globally, more women are choosing it over western-style evening dresses,” Singh said.

The designer this week brought to the capital an exhibition called “Vaastra Sobhaa”. It included textiles and a collection of period saris - some of which are as old as 200 years.

The collection featured 50 “restored” saris and 100 recreated period saris, along with antique dupattas - the traditional drapes from the old havelis (royal family homes) in Rajasthan, the Kutch and other regions of Gujarat, Varanasi and adjoining towns in Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

“I exhibit my collection of old saris and antique textiles from the princely states twice a year,” Singh, who has been collecting antique textiles and saris for the last 15 years, told IANS.

Cashing in on this demand for traditional and antique saris, the apparel chain Fabindia set up an exclusive stand for saris. This is the first in a series of a proposed chain devoted to traditional saris with contemporary looks and matching silk and cotton cholis. Every sari has been handwoven by rural artisans at the chain’s 17 community-owned companies in villages, where artisans own 26 percent of the stakes.

Fabindia has created three lines of saris - the “traditional” line featuring crafts-based saris; “contemporary”, a collection that uses traditional techniques to create a modern idiom; and a “revival” line that brings back saris that are in danger of dying out.

“Traditions like silk Telia Rumals, Koraput saris, Upadas, Ajrakh print on gajji silk, hand-painted kalamkari, madhubani paintings on maheshwari and chanderi and jamdaanis are dying because of lack of support,” Prableen Singh, spokesperson for Fabindia, told IANS.

Gurgaon-based art promoter and writer Ina Puri says price does not matter if a sari reflects the country’s rich heritage. Her wardrobe boasts of heritage weaves from all over the country.

“The saris are an extension of my art,” Puri said. “I can’t think of wearing anything else but saris for the social and cultural dos that I attend all over the world. I also wear tribal saris and have bought a gamcha sari from Dhaka.”

“The lure of the traditional Indian sari from the states is evergreen,” said Delhi-based designer-cum textile revivalist Madhu Jain. She is working with former supermodel-turned-grassroots textile activist Milind Soman for the past nine years to revive the ancient “ikkat” and “kalamkari” saris and weaves in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

“This year, we are going to launch a new line of ikkat from Orissa with unusual motifs inspired by the Puri temple,” Jain told IANS.

Bharatanatyam dancer Geeta Chandran, whose brother-in-law works with weavers all over the country to create traditional saris and retails from two outlets, Utsav, in Delhi and Bangalore, loves the traditional kanchipuram silk - known as “pattupodavai” in Tamil.

“The texture of Kanchi silk is such that it provides a great drape and falls well. Also, it does not crush easily,” Chandran told IANS.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at madhu.c@ians.in)

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