The National Handloom Day is observed annually on August 7 since 2015 with an aim to create awareness about the vast database of indigenous techniques fashion relies on.
When it comes to handlooms, the first image that resonates is of exquisite, handcrafted saris fit for all occasions and drapes that often become valuable heirlooms. It’s safe to say that Indian fashionscape today is not just evolving but also re-imagining handlooms in a new light. There are some brands taking traditions forward while others are adapting as per the discerning millennials of today. No matter who you are, handloom saris do not just make for a worthy investment but can help make a statement too.
We round up some of the best handloom sari labels that you need to check out.
For more than a decade, the Kolkata-based partners and sisters-in-law Swati Agarwal and Sunaina Jalan, with their almost encyclopaedic knowledge, have engaged in a dialogue with fashion, design, and craftsmanship through their intricately woven sarees. Their work features intricate use of zari, traditional patterns such as shikargah, and motifs inspired by Pichwai paintings and Mughal architecture.
Lipsa Hembram’s label Galang Gabaan is all about taking Odisha legacy forward. Derived from the local Santhali language, the name of the brand stands for ‘to create something out of love’ and the same is evident in every creation. It has beautifully hand-painted drapes in striking hues of pinks, greys, powder blues, and blacks for anyone looking for an heirloom piece. Hembram’s vision to fuse crafts from different Indian regions manifests in her sarees featuring Sambalpur ikat work, Pipli patchwork, and prints inspired by the famous bamboo work of Odisha.
The organza and Maheshwari saris from this label are just so out of the box. Craftsmanship and authenticity are at the core of Via East, which showcases traditional weaves in a contemporary manner on their popular Instagram stories.
Think of handlooms, and a traditional image of saris emerges. But that’s not the case with Bangalore-based label Keyah. You can count on their drapes for office. Think chiffons and organzas, and chanderi tissue saris. All this in a variety of hues and sometimes even featuring brocade silks in jewel tones. What’s not to love?
Anavila Mishra’s beautiful summer drapes stand out. Her sari reinterpretations of the traditional drape in organic linen, khadi, and tussar silk have struck a chord with modern Indian women. Think fabrics like kala cotton and silk khadi along with linen and techniques like cording, pleating, and the use of crochet embroideries. For anyone intrigued by subtle hues; from greys to charcoal to soft pinks, there are options galore.
Bangalore-based Padmaja primarily focuses on natural materials and slow techniques. With zero wastage and upcycling at their core, they churn out exquisite saris made in malkha cotton and khadi. Whatever goes waste is used in their beautiful patchwork blouses. This is a go-to label for ditsy florals, chequered prints, and strips.
For Aanchal and Akshita Sagar, their label Ohfab came as an opportunity to connect with their roots. They closely work with the craftsmen and weavers in Varanasi to create some of the most exquisite Benarasi saris. However, they also specialise in lighter renditions; think Benarasi fused with Bengal’s jamdani and evergreen lightweight dupattas featuring a spectrum of intricate embroideries. Their light Benarasi Tanchoi saris are pure collectables. Besides this, they also create a variety of lighter, easy-to-carry saris with Benarasi borders.
Launched in 2016, Tilfi is all about celebrating the traditions yet keeping the discerning clients of today in the loop. Their beautiful Benarasi saris are nothing less than heirlooms. However, it is their modern take on tradition that makes them unique. Just in case you are looking for some innovative handloom sari labels, Tilfi has some answers.
Looking for something different yet evergreen in Benarasi, ace textile designer Kshitij Jalori might have some answers. One look at his social media feed will give you a peek into his take on traditional weaves. Of course, there is an ode to old school festive saris, but there are lightweight kurtas, tunics, dresses, jackets, sharp pantsuits, and more. Be it experimenting with real gold and silver in his zari or creating contemporary patterns to art-deco inspired prints, Jalori’s take on traditional banarasi is one-of-a-kind.
The brand’s sarees, designed by Sanjay Garg, are known for their colours that appeal to the contemporary audience (rani pink, parrot green); motifs that are quintessentially Indian (marigold flowers, elephants, and peacocks); and campaigns that celebrate Indian customs and rituals. Every warp and weft in a Raw Mango saree is a nod to the past with an eye on the future. It is one of the leading and the coolest handloom sari labels in India.