In 2011, when designer Anavila Misra thought of using linen fabric for sarees, not many in the design fraternity were onboard with the idea. Today, nine years later, her linen sarees have a place of pride in the wardrobes of many, such as Bollywood filmmaker Kiran Rao, and actors Kalki Koechlin and Konkana Sen Sharma. Misra has now brought a fresh festive take on her linen ensembles, with her latest collection ‘First Blush’, being presented at Good Earth stores, from where the collection is being retailed.
“We wanted to break the notion that linen can’t be used for festive or occasion wear. The fabric was always relegated to a casual, effortless look. Our festive wear is usually something very heavy and over-embellished, and uncomfortable. With this collection, we wanted something super wearable, comfortable, understated but yet elegant enough to be worn for an occasion,” says Misra, who was in Delhi recently for the launch of her collection at Good Earth’s Khan Market store.
The collection includes statement sarees from Misra’s label, separates like tunics and standalone shirts and shrugs. There’s a lot of zari used for embellishment, making the otherwise sedate outfits dramatic enough to be worn at occasions. Almost 80 pe rcent of the ensembles have been made using linen, with some interplay of silk. The colour palette is something new for Misra’s stable. “We have the peach and blush shades, our muted favourites, but there’s also cinnamon, solid reds and warm browns. At times, we have also used a kinari of gold zari,” adds the Mumbai-based designer.
The collection features a unique take on the kaftan — a dress with kaftan-esque sleeves and layering, and also pairs salwars with a tunic. Misra on earlier occasions has presented lines inspired by the Sapa tribe of Vietnam, has worked with khadi, and has done collections inspired by the free spirit of a woman and the folk elements of India. But her statement makers are linen sarees in sedate, monochrome shades.
Several other designers and fashion chains have come up with linen sarees now, not to mention local markets where we see them stacked in all shades. But that was not the case when Misra started out. “Linen is a tricky yarn. It’s slubby and coarse, and doesn’t have the sheen of a finished saree woven from fine silk or fine cotton. But after the initial hesitation, people realised it’s super comfortable. And even as it crushes, there’s a style and quirk to it,” says Misra.
But while the popularity of linen sarees is a good thing, Misra is concerned about the mass replication of the concept, given that markets are now flooded with variants priced at Rs 1,200. “It’s not pure linen for that price, it’s rayon mix. It’s simple mathematics to know that you cannot get linen for that price. We get our linen yarn for about Rs 4,000 per lea. A saree uses about 700 gms, and another 100 gms is used while weaving. Add to it the cost of a weaver and dyeing, you can’t get a linen saree for that price,” adds Misra, who graduated from NIFT, Delhi, in 2000.
The designer is also among those credited for bringing the saree back in vogue. Her sarees paired with crop tops, or a T-shirt brought in younger population to the drape. “We need to understand that when we present something on the ramp, it is to give options of styling, so people get ideas and they can perhaps use them. The idea is to make the drape your own. Right now, we are seeing a lot more people wearing the saree, and working with it; it’s here to stay,” she says.