I found them mesmerizing, and also incredibly exciting: Why had it never before occurred to me to experiment with draping? In Delhi later that week, on a dusty, nondescript street east of the city, I went to meet designer Rimzim Dadu , who completely unmoors the sari from its conventions.
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Dadu focuses on texture, often through unexpected materials and whimsical methods of deconstruction and reassembly. I found a similar sense of ingenuity and play in the work of Rashmi Varma , whose studio is deep in the warren-like neighborhood of Shahpur Jat. The effect is beguiling. Varma herself embodies her experimental ethos, often wearing unconventional drapes—shorter in length, or through her legs, or with pleats in the back. The lower border and loose end, for example, are traditionally heavily patterned not just for decoration, but so that they hang and drape with a certain weight, something that has been lost in mass production.
Though Chishti is a bit of a purist, concerned with the craft of weaving and the production line as much as the end product, she also emphasized that the sari has long been a flexible, changeable garment. In other words, what seems predetermined now was once novel. Take the blouse and petticoat, often seen as inseparable from the sari today. These undergarments only emerged during the colonial era due to British notions of propriety. The sari, she insisted, has always, and should continue to, reflect the needs and imaginations of its wearers.
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This idea hit me like a revelation. Acknowledging that was freeing. It can simply be what I want it to be. On one of my final days in India, my aunt Jayashree and I went sari shopping in Chennai.
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While there are now department stores that sell them by weight and price and quality, we opted for a stretch of the city with smaller-scale establishments, where the process remains a singular ritual. You walk into a low-ceilinged and fluorescent-lit store, and are usually confronted with a handful of men, thin and mustached, languidly perched on low cloth-covered benches.
Behind them, stacks and stacks of impeccably folded saris lie in wait. You gesture toward a color, or a material.
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Slowly, a man removes one from the stacks, and then another, and then another. You might shake your head, or tut, or express the slightest shift of an eye. The momentum builds; saris begin whirling off the shelves. Latest from Star Live. In case you missed it. Rohingya crisis: A concern for the region.
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