THE RUSTLE of silk, the vibrant hues of a Benarasi, the pretty pallu of a Patola… there’s no denying the charm of a handloom sari. The #100sareepact may be trending only now but for Kirron Kher, the love affair with the six yards started many years ago. The Chandigarh MP has an enviable collection of saris that includes everything from Kanjeevarams, Patolas, Uppadas to Maheshwaris and more. On Tuesday, as she stepped into one of the halls at Taj Chandigarh, it was difficult to take eyes off the Jaamdaani Khadi sari she wore, the one with a fine zari border. To the untrained eye, it might have looked like a print, but only a sari connoisseur would know that it took the weaver close to a year to make this one sari.
“Nothing spells heritage and tradition more than a handloom sari. I have always endorsed the sari. Nothing matches its elegance,” said Kher. While it has taken Kher years to curate her personal collection, sourcing handloom saris from across Indian states, much of it can be credited to designer Gaurang Shah. A go-to man for not just traditional saris but those with unique combinations (think Kanjeevaram with organza, Lucknowi chikan with Parsi gara embroidery), Shah has been working with weavers much before “handloom revival” became a trendy coinage.
“My love affair with saris began when I was eight years old and used to help out in my father’s sari blouse store,” said Shah who is exhibiting his collection for the first time in the city. Referring to Kher as his “muse and friend”, Shah said, “I have worked with her for 15 years and she has an eye for the best saris.”
Incidentally, most of the saris that Kher wore for her show India’s Got Talent were also from Shah’s stable. “I work with more than 500 weavers across India in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. I started reviving the looms when it was unfashionable to do so. Today, handloom is high fashion,” said Shah.
Floral and geometrics drawn from nature along with print-like weaving are statement styles of the designer who has teamed up with Mira Sagar of the label Vaya to take handloom saris across India and overseas. “The key to handloom becoming popular again is contemporisation of the design using traditional techniques. I not only work with different textures but also bring in brighter hues and colour blocking,” said Shah who is exhibiting at Taj Chandigarh.
Shah and Sagar have especially designed a range of dupattas to appeal to the local fashionista. “I was very keen to come to Punjab. I even sourced antique Phulkaris for my spring-summer 2015 show. I am looking to visit Patiala as I want to explore Phulkari next in my saris,” said Shah.
Working with weavers of Maheshwar for over 20 years, Sagar is equally passionate about Indian textiles. “We work directly with the weavers. Thankfully, the tradition of sari wearing is on the rise once again and it will generate more work for the weavers who had till some years ago left the loom,” she said.