Deepika Padukone’s Kanjeevaram sari from luxury label, Advaya from the House of Angadi, has stirred the bridal fashion pot late last year and early this year. The Bangalore-based sari house is now in the news for its exquisite bridal Kanjeevarams and its innovative approach to the traditional weave. The fact that a celebrity like Deepika asserted her Kannada bridal roots with the Advaya sari not only made people sit up and take notice and got accolades for the House of Angadi. But for the design house, headed by Mr K Radharaman, the label’s popularity has always been the same, it’s a well known destination for South Indian brides around the world.
The label is known for its lush fabrics, astounding design sensibilities and a distinct identity not just for Kanjeevarams but for the unique blends it lends itself to, with its unusual borders, special colour pairings and innovative motifs. The label has also managed to reach out to bigger audiences, made a special place for itself in the hearts of contemporary brides and has also recently launched limited edition sarees by textile design expert Mr K Radharaman with blends like Linen and Organza. We meet the reticent and knowledgeable founder and textile designer Radharaman who is out to break the myths around Kanjeevarams, helps us understand the ideas behind different cultures and takes us through his design aesthetic.
How is Advaya different from the rest of the labels – what makes the label work?
We use real gold zari, silk and jamdani – the most expensive materials used in textiles and are statement pieces that are meant to be heirlooms, pieces of history and will remain so for generations to come. Each Advaya sari is 100 % designed by us and is unique in every way, that means it is not in general circulation across generic Kanjeevarams. At the same time, we are just not as Kanjeevaram-centric as people imagine it to be. We do work with multiple weaves – from Benarasi to Kota silk to even Linen and reinvent them to meet modern needs. Kanjeevarams happen to be our strong suit, it is a large part of our market in South India. Secondly, most designer labels don’t address this genre at all so that makes us one of the few fashion houses that are popular.
How does a kanjeevaram fare over modern bridal houses?
Most designer wear is apparel-centric, catering to ready-to-wear options, they are not that much textile-centric. They don’t work with weaves or fabrics, just cuts and silhouettes because they don’t have the knowledge and the know-how. The sari is six meters of fabric that you drape around yourself so the battle is between the stitch and the drape.
What makes a kanjeevaram a classic in every bride’s wardrobe?
While a Kanjeevaram is often viewed as a traditional textile, in reality it offers a canvas that cannot be rivaled by any other genre of sari. Each sari for this collection has a story that is replete with symbolism in its motifs, borders and weaves. A sari assumes the form of your body – so it’s glamorous. It can flaunt your curves, it can hide your curves, it can remove your flaws and highlight your look – its versatile. The style depends on the wearer, so it’s unique in every way.
What’s the design aesthetic at Advaya?
The design aesthetic of Advaya is very different from the rest of India. I’m not a trained designer, we are a family of weaves. My design is natural, intuitive and my aesthetics and sensibilities come from a place of knowledge of the fabric and the weave. In simple words, we look at fabrics – not colours, silhouettes, motifs, cuts etc. It’s also about technique, weave and how the drape falls on the body. Most designers outside are not trained in fabric these days. The weave is the basic aspect of textile. I’m dealing with customers who want long-lasting fabrics, richer textiles and more durable drapes. They are not about acquiring labels, using them today and discarding them tomorrow. They want to own a product that lasts them for generations. It’s about owing art, not just a sari.
Textile has come into focus in fashion circles these days. How does the rest of India look at kanjeevarams now?
Kanjeevarams have been around a few 1000 years because the design language that is inspired by temples, deities and architecture. A textile that has withstood so many cultural changes in the country and it has stayed timeless. Deepika Padukone has made it fashionable from our house, Rekha consciously wears it and Aishwarya wore it at her wedding – so its always been fashionable. It’s not new, its now in focus. People used to see it as a weave only for older women, moms and mother-in-laws. That’s the thing about a sari – it’s how you wear it that makes it look the way it is. It’s for everyone who wants to stay classic.
Common myths about kanjeevarams?
A Kanjeevaram sari is never out of style. It’s got staying power. It will remain timeless.
What’s fashionable? Fabrics are, cuts and silhouettes don’t last for generations.
People say that Kanjeevarams are heavy. To be honest, lehengas are heavier now with embroideries and more. It’s about how you style it, which blouse you choose, what jewellery you wear – the perception needs to change.
How are you as a textile house reaching out to a millennial audience?
There are limitations to selling the typical Kanjeevaram. So we want to reinvent things to suit modern needs. Take for example, organza Kanjeevarams, they are light, weightless and translucent. They radiate glamour and they are not as formal a drape as a Kanjeevaram. Even Linen Kanjeevarams have never been done before – they are casual and chic.
What about colours, what’s in trend?
Colour is a seasonal idea so there’s no definite path we are taking. Pastels are easy on the eye and chic – but these work in summers. Fall has a heavier colour catalogue. Kanjeevarams have a wider palette in terms of colours and the luxury of contrast borders. Dramatic contrasts, pastel colours, unusual pairings make it very interesting for the bride to accessorise it the way she likes it. Diamonds and gold and platinum – the colour palette suits every kind of jewellery. Colour too is dependent on the audience. India works with different cultures – Bengalis love reds, maroons and yellows, Karnataka works with bottle green, Kerala brides like white and off-white. Kanjeevarams are the one textile that gives you a wide array of choices to suit your culture. Jewel tones for example are a great way to infuse two colours into one, no other fabric can get you that look except a Kanjeevaram.
Are there any special techniques used in your new collections?
I work a lot on technique in drape – every textile employs a different technique. Muslin, is an old fabric and we have now revived it and invested in the fabrics. Muslin is light, translucent and very amicable and lends itself to a summer bride beautiful. Add zari and colour, use it smartly, embellishing with a motif and it looks luxurious and versatile. The present collection focuses on a range of Kanjeevarams, Jamdhanis and Kotas that are representative of an evolved design language and sensibility.
Advice for Millennial brides?
Own something that you still find fashionable 10-20 years later. Pass it on if you can, to your daughters and grand-kids. A sari can never be passe. Everything should last a lifetime – that’s the important thing. Gowns or dresses, the silhouette has not changed, but the sari can be draped in different ways. Celebrate your culture, your drape, your personality. No more Anushka-wali lehenga, Deepika-wala sari – you make your own path. It’s about the wearer being aware and questioning themselves on what’s timeless and enduring for themselves according to their own personality.
Lastly, what about Deepika’s sari – has it changed the way people see you now?
In South India, it hasn’t changed much. But for the rest of the country, the Kanjeevaram is now seen as fashionable. I think seeing her in a sari made people question their choices. Deepika is glamorous, easy-going and she is true to herself. That worked for her and for Kanjeevarams in general.