Designer Anavila Mishra first came across wall art and cushion covers bearing intricate patchwork done by the weavers of Jharkhands Santhali tribe at an exhibition in New Delhi in 2009. The work was so fine and detailed that I was tempted to approach the weavers to work for me, she recollects. Fast forward to the present: Not only has Mishra enjoyed a fruitful rapport with the weavers but she has also modelled her latest collection of saris on them,which are available at En Inde in Delhi.
Mishra even got the weavers to wear the saris from this collection and pose for the camera. In the past four years that I have been working with these women,I have seen them spend a better part of the day working in the fields. I was inspired by their style of draping the sari as it is hassle-free and has fewer pleats. I decided to incorporate it in the shoot for this line, she says.
This collection has saris made from 100 per cent linen,a rarity in todays times. Linen is a long yarn and it breaks easily. This is why more often that not,silk is used in the warp and linen in the weft. I wanted to look beyond this and reinvent the linen sari, she explains. The designer,who has a studio in Bandra,changed the loom settings the warping and the denting to create a fabric that could be draped as a sari. It took her six months to make the first one.
This collection has three distinct lines classic,festive and winter. While the classic segment has linen saris in neutral hues such as white,creme and grey,the festive line features zari work (both on the border and the body of the sari) against a jacquard weave and has brighter colours instead. Jewel tones are not commonly used for linen and even for me,this is a first, she concedes.
In the winter linen collection,she has experimented with textures with the use of herringbone and twill weaves that are usually associated with winter fabrics. For instance,a twill weave linen sari set in red and indigo blue is eye-catching and it perfectly represents winter festive. The twill weave lends a denim-like feel making it a casual linen sari, says Mishra,whose journey in fashion started with National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT),Delhi,where she studied
While her three-year stint in corporate retail was satisfying,it was the opportunity to work with rural artisans as part of a government-backed project that prompted a career shift. This experience made her nurture the desire to develop a unique sari that paid an ode to Indian weaves,particularly linen. After the project,I continued to work with weavers in Gandhinagar,Benaras,Maheshwar and Jharkhand, she says.