Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen the saree shed its traditional image, thanks to the efforts of designers who are infusing it with contemporary updates. With the influx of multicultural sensibilities, the traditional drape has been re-imagined in different signatures. From denim versions to pre-stitched options, today there is no dearth of saree styles. Here are the 8 designer interpretations of the saree that give it a new spin.
Think of saree drapes and the first name that comes to mind is Tarun Tahiliani. For him, the saree is inherently Indian with universal appeal. What Tahiliani loves about it is its adaptability – the beauty lies in the multiple ways it can be draped and the way it looks on each person. “The modern Indian woman has evolved and so has the saree. I think pre-constructed sarees are in response to the needs of women of today, who have lesser time to dress yet maintain comfort and style. The concept saree is for those who are aware of its traditions, but individual in styling their own statements,” says Tahiliani.
Swati & Sunaina
For Swati & Sunaina, the saree is a garment for Indian women of all ages. Through their intricately woven pieces, they engage in a dialogue with fashion, design, and craftsmanship; their sarees feature zari and traditional patterns such as shikargah, and motifs inspired by Pichwai paintings and the Mughal architecture.“Each saree that I own has a special moment of my life attached to it and this has also happened in our work. Our approach and outlook towards design have always been classic and timeless. That reflects in our sarees. To us, a saree is for keeps,” says Swati.
Sanjay Garg of Raw Mango
To call him a textile revivalist won’t be an exaggeration. From refurbishing forgotten fabrics such as the Gujarati mashru in a variety of colours and patterns via exquisitely crafted traditional sarees, to using jamdani, mul, and Benarasi brocades, all are an inseparable part of Raw Mango’s DNA. Sanjay Garg places the saree on a thin line between simplicity and provocation. He wants to ensure that as an idea it extends beyond the momentary celebration of being ‘cool’. ”It should become part of our lives as ‘normal’ or worn out of habit, and not set aside for special occasions. For me, the saree is the most modern garment, one that can be perceived in so many different ways.”
Deepshikha Khanna, Apparel Head for Sustain, Good Earth, India
Sarees can be imagined beyond tradition – modern, easy, and light – and this is what drives Good Earth as a brand. For Deepshikha Khanna, apparel head for Sustain, Good Earth India, sarees makes sense when worn every day. As a result, Sustain’s pieces are extremely wearable.“Apart from being a timeless garment, it is also versatile as it will continue to be relevant in one way or another. I see the saree as seamlessly transitioning from morning to evening, from casual to formal by a simple tweak in style or draping technique. Marking a transition from single to married, or having a cultural context in terms of colour and fabric, the saree has had an ornamental as well as functional use.”
If you want to veer away from classic Benarasis, spend some time sifting through Anavila Mishra‘s work. Devoid of anything loud, Mishra has carved a niche in creating linen sarees. Her faith in organic materials and focusing on sarees as comfort wear has led her to create drapes that exude nostalgia and speak to the modern Indian woman. For Mishra, a saree is an extension and expression of her own personality and she is on a mission to make drapes simpler yet exciting for urban Indian women..“Saree is all that a woman stands for: Feminine and strong yet delicate, elegant, and mysterious.”
Nikhil Thampi’s signature is to bring contradictory elements together. He has taken half-and-half sarees to a new level by incorporating lace or see-through fabrics in his work. His pieces are akin to glamorous, uber cool dresses. For him it is more than an outfit, an inseparable part of every quintessential Indian household. “[In my sarees] we have touched our roots by giving the modern piece a rural touch with our blouses. Through my ‘Kathakali’ collection, we have played with modern techniques like beads and bodysuits, and have had designs where the blouses and saree are held together by a belt.”
Shivan & Narresh
Known for their swimwear pieces, designer duo Shivan & Narresh have made sarees more sensual. Be it their use of viscose crepe or silk, their version is meant for women who want to accentuate their curves, indulge in striking prints, and make a statement. For beach weddings and summer brunches, their experimental drapes with heavily embellished borders are a must-have. For the duo, the traditional Indian saree traces its lineage to versatility and simplicity. “Our iconic bikini saree is a signature creation. It has indulged in the idea of a modernist bathing suit while continuing to ideate the purpose of wearing a sari for comfort and as a symbol of cultural identity for an Indian woman.”
Think of deconstructing the traditional drape and you will see Rashmi Varma’s edgy creations. For her, the saree signifies culture, sculpture, the past, and the future. As a designer, she considers the saree drape to be a sculptural piece, unique to the wearer, and something that has evolved gracefully over the last century. Her version can best be summed up via the saree dress: “The saree dress is about combining two traditions of clothing the body – the unstitched draping of cloth with western dressmaking traditions. Even though we call it a saree dress, it still has a feel of a nivi-draped saree but it is not one.”
It was while studying fashion journalism at London College of Fashion that Anupam developed a keen interest in the anthropological aspect of the discipline; for him, fashion only makes sense when seen in the context of its environment. He is always on the hunt for great stories, and in his spare time binge-watches films/shows starring Whoopi Goldberg, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.