With the "#100sareepact" trending, saris have come back into focus as a garment that is contemporary yet comfortable. Ritika Bhatia identifies four labels leading the funky revolution.
Photographs: Courtesy Corporate Voice Weber Shandwick
The crop-top choli
Banwarey is a group of four young artists who got together for their shared love for handloom, which they consider more "like an instrument of art, as their charm cannot be reciprocated by machine-made fabrics." Apurva, Shrishti, Ajay and Shruti have borrowed from the cultural heritage of traditional handloom and styled it in their own specific way.
One of their stylistic inventions is the "peplum choli" -- the inspiration for which came from playing around with a peplum top, "by adding pochampalli ikat as a second layer underneath, giving the regular peplum a quintessential Banwarey feel."
Their experimental blouses can be paired with a traditional sari, giving it a modern twist and standing out as a statement piece in itself. Banwarey's customers are excited about breaking the norm of matching the blouse with just their sari. "They talk to us about how they liked the idea that the same choli can also double up as a crop top that is chic enough to be paired with their favourite sari, a pair of classic trousers or even over those red jeans!"
Currently designing handloom jewellery, shoes and cholis, they are also in the process of designing saris and exploring different styles of draping.
Looking for draping ideas? Team Banwarey is too.
"There is so much more that can be done with a sari than the regular Thakurbari drape," say the team mischievously.
Their expert tip: "YouTube always helps!"
Where to buy: firstname.lastname@example.org or find them on Facebook
Gender-bending six yards
Sanjukta Roy's namesake brand carries everything from beautiful chandelier earrings to chic contemporary wear, all fashioned from the comfortable and humble gamcha, the indigenous east Indian towel.
"They differ in size and construction in every locality, and it's not woven in yardages but in pieces, so you have to plan your garment and you get a completely unique one each time," she explains. Moreover, because gamchas dry really fast, they make the perfect, albeit coarse, fabric for a hot summer day.
She's been designing saris for the last two years and has recently launched a design concept with saris for men.
"I would often get requests from men who were bored of wearing their staid old grays and blues and blacks." They would look ruefully at her vibrant creations, where Sanjukta saw an opportunity to do some gender-bending.
"A lot of younger men now don't bother about gender-based dress codes, when you can have kilts why not saris?" says Sanjukta.
She credits Jean Paul-Galtier as her inspiration, the maverick designer who first put men in skirts on the international runway.
Where to buy: Find her on Facebook
For the Rani in you
Radio Rani is named after Mumbai-based Sneh Nihalani's love for radio (and having worked in radio, advertising and script writing all her life).
The designer behind the kitschy brand of saris that feature peacocks, the Buddha and female deities, Nihalani turned to designing saris after marrying a South Indian and craving more options than just the old-fashioned Kanjeevarams.
"For me, a sari is a playground on which I love to set my ideas free. Every sari I create is inspired by a woman I know, have seen, heard or read about," says Nihalani.
My picks are the Peace Rani which features an illustrated motif of the Buddha with lotus designs in bright orange and fuchsia patterns, and the Maha Rani that showcases an illustration of Draupadi on the front with shlokas by Krishna on the pallu.
Where to buy: email@example.com or find them on Facebook
'These are a few of my favourite things'
Photographs: Queen of Hearts by Deepa Mehta/Facebook
Mumbai-based Deepa Mehta started off by designing saris for her 20-something daughter. "She liked the fabrics and colours that I would use, but I would add details that would suit her age," she says.
Consider yourself a night-owl, a cards aficionado or just plain bull-headed?
Well you might just get to wear your quirk on your sleeve, as all of these motifs have made their way into Mehta's designer collection, Queen of Hearts: "Nature is my number one inspiration -- hence, I've put fish, dragonflies, cats and hot air balloons on my saris. Basically I'm making saris with all my favourite things on them!"
They can be your favourites too, as she is open to customisation.
The flamboyant patterns are wrought by delicate embroidery techniques such as zardosi, Kutchi work and on heirloom prints like bagh, ajrak and block print.I have my eye on a green Maheshwari sari with a hand embroidered bull motif (drawn from a vintage medallion); and a navy blue handloom cotton sari with pink umbrellas.
Where to buy: firstname.lastname@example.org for orders or find them on Facebook