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In Conversation with Swati Mukund

Beautiful, smart, musician, teacher, handloom evangelist, mother to a 4 and half year old and let’s not forget, a pinkathon ambassador – did you think I was talking about different people? No. This is Swati Mukund for you! What is very interesting about her is how happy she looks draped in saris! While the rest of us are finding reasons and occasions to wear saris, here is a young girl who has made it a part of her lifestyle. She is one of the few to have grasped the versatility of this attire, quite evident in how much she experiments with them! So I just had to talk to her and she very sweetly accommodated me into her busy schedule.

Swati’s love for Saris

It started at a very young age, watching my mom and grandmom do everything in a sari. I have met people who run marathons in one. So it’s not an attire that I think of only on occasions. It’s a part of my lifestyle and I grew up wearing saris. I am comfortable in other clothes too – from western to other Indian ethnic. But it’s saris that remain close to my heart. Nothing else does as much justice.

Saris – a regular affair

A Sari is like any other garment. You can wear it whenever you want to. But most of the time it’s worn during special occasions or festivals. When people see you in a sari they tend to think you’re dressed up for something special.  But when you wear it regularly, they get used to seeing you in it and then it becomes part of your identity. This is what happened to me. But it’s a conscious choice we need to make. I find saris to be as comfortable as any other attire, and I have a lot of fun draping it in different ways. While others experiment with different kinds of clothes, be it lehengas, or dresses, I experiment with saris… by wearing it with kurtas, T-shirts and so on.

IMG_9669Love for Kanjivarams

Up until 2-3 years ago, the majority of my sari collection consisted of kanjivarams. I have worn all sorts of kanjivarams, from the grand heavy ones to the light simple ones. All my special occasions are marked in a kanjivaram. My grandparents gifted me one for my first day in college. I wore a beautiful kanjivaram for my first concert. I can never get tired or bored of it.

Running Marathons in a Sari!

It was very comfortable. The thing about saris is that it gives you the flexibility to drape it in a style that suits you and the occasion. For the marathon, I chose to wear it like a jump suit (madisar), and it was absolutely fine. 

I live in Bombay and a lot of times I wear a sari when others around me aren’t. But Bombay as a city is very accommodating of different kinds of people. There is space to hone your individuality while being accepted completely by others. So even if there aren’t too many people wearing saris, I am comfortable doing so. Once I went to a night club straight from work, and I happened to be in a sari. A lot of people came up to me to say how good it looked! 

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Passion for Handwoven saris

In general I like anything that’s handmade. It has a personal touch to it. This love extends to weaves as well. I love handwoven saris because it takes a lot of effort, time, energy and creativity to make them. This is reflected in the quality of the saris. And by buying them, we are acknowledging and encouraging the weaver and his or her talent. I mostly wear handloom saris. One goal of mine is to own all kinds of handlooms such as Ikkat, banarasi, paithani, jamdhanis and so on..

Future of handlooms

With social media and the whole 100 days of saris pact, I can clearly see a lot of revivals happening. There is definitely a bright future for handwoven saris. A lot more information is available to customers now than ever before with which an informed decision can be made. This awareness that is being created is definitely having a ripple effect all over.

 

 

 

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In conversation with Tanaya Das

Tanaya Das loves anything adventurous and is exceptionally creative. Having grown up all over India, she’s a traveller at heart and a copy writer by profession. She is highly inspiring and courageous. Her creativity can be seen in the way she wears her saris, hardly ever repeating her style. In a way, Tanaya represents the Sari – she’s as adapting, versatile and colourful. Read on to know more about her..

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 Tanaya’s Love for Saris:

I have loved saris since I was a little girl. Maybe it comes from being a Bengali, but I have always been drawn to their fluid beauty. Its six yards of fabric to play with! I find them comfortable, graceful and love the fact that India has so much variety to choose from.

 Experimenting with different drapes:

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I believe there is no one right way to drape a sari. We don’t really have to wear it with a blouse and in-skirt and we don’t need a certain kind of footwear or a specific kind of jewellery. It is a liberating garment that people sometimes constrain with their rules.

Why can’t we wear it with a sweater or with torn jeans? Why can’t we be innovative and find a drape that suits us the most? It is because of all the rules that people often wear Saris just as they don costumes. The sari is whatever you want it to be..your perfect partner in crime for a life well-lived.

I have never stuck to the rules and have enjoyed experimenting with different styles of draping. This has enabled me to adopt a drape that suits the occasion, be it going to work or to a wedding or to the pub. I find saris to be practical, not limiting. Hence it’s a part of my everyday life.

Her Journey:

Have your tried Googling saris? When you do, what you see is tonnes of pictures of women – who are fair, with brown eyes, skinny and with straight hair – in a studio. It seems very monotonous and hardly justifies the Sari and what it stands for. That’s when I decided to start my blog.

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Whenever I wore a sari I started taking pictures and writing about it. These were spontaneous shots of me going about my everyday life or casually chilling in a sari. The idea was to highlight the sari, to celebrate this work of art and not me. This is why there are very few pictures where you can clearly see my face on the blog or on my Instagram.

Sometimes I drape my sari with a blouse, sometimes with a random t-shirt and sometimes with just the woven treasure sans blouse, top or underskirt. There are times when I wear a very simple sari to a wedding and a grand heavy sari to work. It’s all about what I feel like on a particular day.

 Handloom Vs Powerloom

Every state in India has a massive textile heritage and I am very proud of our handcrafted saris and of the rich variety of options.

Handloom saris come in every budget. They are not always expensive and when they are, it is because of the intricate work that has gone into it. Mine was a conscious choice – to wear only handloom saris. They’re a work of art. Why would I buy anything else?

 

Kanjivarams:

I love Kanjivarams. Zari or no Zari, I love them all. They are beyond works of art.  I adore vintage silks which have mellowed with age. They are a lot softer and drape really well. It’s a common belief that Kanjivarams should be worn only for weddings. I don’t believe that. They are versatile and can be worn in myriad ways. All that is needed is someone with a little bit of imagination to experiment with them. They are absolute poetry in motion, get better with age and make me feel like a queen who can ward off anything negative!

Draping Style:

Some of the things I have learnt in my sari journey are:

  1. The fun in not following rules – they restrict me.
  2. Not letting any kind of fabric intimidate me. If I really want to drape myself with something, I will find a way.
  3. Allowing the sari to speak to me. That’s when magic happens!
  4. Allowing myself to get creative.
  5. Not caring if I don’t have the right accessories to go with a sari.

 

The story of Ananthanayaki – a Master Weaver

Ananthanayaki comes from a family of ‘Master Weavers’. She’s brave, artistic, passionate, sincere, and a mother to two gorgeous daughters. She was the first weaver to join ‘The Silk Line’ team and her passion for this art has inspired many. Read on to know more about her and it’s a guarantee that she’ll make an impression on you.

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A childhood woven in silk

I grew up with 3 brothers and 2 sisters. My father was a passionate weaver and an artist at heart. He had 4 looms at home which he owned and operated. He wove till his last breath and my mom supported him throughout. Like any business, there were ups and downs. But there was financial stability throughout.

All of us started weaving at a very young age, not out of compulsion. But when you grow up in that environment it naturally comes to you. I guess it’s also in our genes. We used to work together and help each other, which was a lot of fun.

Love for Weaving

Weaving is and was always second nature to me. It came very easily to all of us. But my parents believed that we ought to be educated and encouraged us to do whatever we wanted to. I went to school till my 10th grade, after which I chose to weave.

Weaving is not a standalone art. You need a really good support system. All of us siblings had that in my father’s house. Slowly, when we started getting married, it became harder to continue without the support system. Only one of my brothers is weaving now, apart from me. When I got married, I built my own loom and was weaving for a good number of years. But we were staying in rented houses and kept shifting. Some of the houses we stayed in did not have a comfortable set up to have a loom. So I discontinued for a few years.

In the interim I worked in a leather factory. I won’t say I didn’t like it but it was nothing like weaving. That’s when I got this opportunity to weave again, and very gladly took it!

 

What about weaving?

Weaving is an art form, just like painting, playing a musical instrument or writing. I enjoy the very act of weaving, my mind becomes incredibly calm and it makes me happy. Even when I am at home, my mind is always on the loom. But let me tell you this. Weaving is a lot more than what people think it is. I have learnt so much through weaving, because it trains you in different things.

  • A little bit of Engineering: To start with, you need a very good understanding of the loom which is not exactly an easy structure. While working, there are a lot of things that constantly need to be fixed. For every sari that’s different, the loom will have to change accordingly to fit the new design. So it trains you in engineering.
  • The number game: Math is extremely important. Starting with the weight of silk to the count of silk threads, it’s all about the numbers. If the math goes wrong, it can have an effect on the design and texture
  • Drawing: it’s not necessary but it’s better if you can draw. Because it helps you weave motifs better and be more confident of your work
  • Chemistry: Silk gets affected very easily – by the moisture in the air, water used, amount of starch etc. We need to know all of this. And we constantly keep learning new things
  • Colours: How do you get turquoise? Or deep maroon? Or sunset yellow? By mixing colors in the warp and weft. The more you weave, the deeper you get into colors. It also has a calming effect on your mind
  • Fabric: Over here in Kanchipuram we deal only with silk. But we know everything about it. How to make it softer, rougher, stiffer, and so on. Maybe one day we’ll deal with other kinds of fabric too.
  • Awareness: I start weaving early in the morning. I have music on and I get into a zone. It brings about awareness and is very meditative in nature.

 

Women and Weaving

My parents believed that women should be independent in every aspect of life. They not only stressed on education but also on being proficient in any skill. Because that skill can make you very self-sufficient in life. So I have always been independent. Even when I had children –  twins mind you – I continued to work. That’s also because I have an incredibly understanding and supportive husband. He stands by me and helps me achieve my dreams. Kanchipuram has a lot of women who are very talented. And they show great interest in weaving. But it becomes very hard when there is no family support. Something must be done and their underlying fear needs to be addressed so that these women can weave.

 

 

 

In Conversation with the ‘Saree man’

The Sari is not an attire. It’s a symbol of elegance and grace. Given the variety, history and skill of the weavers in India, ‘the Sari’ has never been seen as only an attire, but a work of art which can be embraced by anyone who appreciates it. One such person is Himanshu. Often referred to as the ‘Saree man’ he is an artist at heart and is exceptionally inspiring. His taste in drapes is spectacular and his style of draping is enviable! Elegant and magnificent, Himanshu is one interesting person to speak to!

 

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Himanshu’s Love for Saris:

It started on a whim. I was curating art shows and I slowly started experimenting with Saris within the art circle. Very soon, I fell in love with the sari universe. In 2014 I decided to formalize my love for saris. Apart from owning ‘Red Earth,’ I also curate saris from different parts of India.

Love for Handwoven saris:

I consider handwoven saris to be a work of art. The unevenness of the weave, the perforations, and the feel of the fabric is what attracts me to it.

I started collecting saris for personal use.  I mostly prefer wearing handwoven saris, but sometimes if I really like a pattern in a powerloom sari, which we might not get in the former, I pick it up. I call them ‘Power loom beauties.’

Even while curating, my preference is predominantly for those that are handwoven. My taste is spontaneous and intuitive. But I don’t necessarily rule out non-handloom weaves. If it’s very interesting, unique and something rare to come by with respect to pattern or design, I might consider it.

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Personal favorite style of draping:

I don’t follow a particular framework of draping a sari. I play around with it and internalize the drape, suiting my mood. I often wear saris with shirts and sometimes with blouses. I keep it as flexible as possible and that is the best part of it. It’s versatility lies in the different ways in which you can drape it.

Kanjivaram

I have a few Kanjivarams in my collection. What I love about Kanjivarams though is how well they drape. The silk is well-bodied and falls really well! But apart from Kanjivarams I also like silk and cotton dhotis from Tamil Nadu. I like the weaving style 

 

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Thoughts on the future of handwoven saris:

The world is moving towards instant fashion. But to drape a sari, you need to put together a blouse, in-skirt and the right kind of accessories. It takes time. The process of putting together a sari and draping it is an art. It’s becoming fashionable to say we don’t wear saris. But nothing can replace the joy of draping saris. These are little eccentricities that brings out the artist in everyone.

Handwoven saris are becoming a luxury and hence are not available to everyone.Given the shrinking weaving communities and the increase in demand for handwoven saris, the price has only been driven up. They can never go off the market but because of the price, it will not be affordable for everyone. This is what I see happening in the near future.