AND IT’S A WRAP
A sign of both modernity and tradition, in the hands of designers today, the sari is becoming an aspirational symbol too
Reinvented by talented designers, the sari now becomes an aspirational symbol
DELHI-BASED DESIGNER David Abraham, one half of the Abraham & Thakore label, says he remembers his Syrian Christian grandmother changing out of her white chatta munda into richly coloured Kanjeevarams on special occasions. “I remember in particular a beautiful sapphire blue sari with a self border that she would wear,” he says. It was the question of identity that made him experiment with the sari—cut it, style it, reinvent it. For Abraham & Thakore, who have made both stitched and unstitched versions of the sari, it is a long piece of untouched fabric, which could represent a regional culture, could be a uniform for work, or even a metaphor for steamy sex.
And as the fashion weeks enter another Autumn/ Winter cycle, more saris, draped in unconventional ways, are expected on the runways. Identity is an important question in today’s age where high-street fashion brands like Zara and H&M are making the world a place of homogenised identities. So a culturally significant clothing like the sari is back in the urban closet with a bang.
Recently, the sari’s emergence as the new fashion statement was unfairly described as nationalistic promotion in a piece by Asgar Qadri in The New York Times: “...the Banarasi sari, the traditional garment known for its fine silk and opulent embroidery—and primarily worn by Hindu women.” The article, ‘In India, Fashion Has Become a Nationalist Cause’, took a myopic view of a garment that represents cultures crisscrossing many religions and identities.
Yet, in the sari’s revival as an aspirational garment, the force of nostalgia is perhaps often underestimated. The past, with the possibilities it contains for the future, is what has made many designers turn to the sari. They have experimented with drapes, styles and even the blouse, which is a parallel narrative and a statement piece in itself, one that can become a game changer for the sari— like a bomber jacket, a cape or a cropped shirt.
The sari has a global parallel. In 2015, Japanese musician Yoshiki, internationally recognised as the leader and co-founder of heavy metal group X Japan, announced his kimono brand, Yoshikimono. The first collection featured a range of ‘rock star kimonos’, featuring unorthodox prints