06 July, 2018

Gossamer Chanderi Saree

I wanted to paint Frida Kahlo on one of my blouses and decided to do it on one of my old blouses which are lying unused. This is how I could upcycle and revamp it and wear it again. I decided to wear it today with my two-decade-old Gossamer Chanderi saree. This saree had no zari but interesting print which almost looks like it is hand painted in a unique colour palette. It is a mix of floral print in the body and same colour awning stripes in the pallu and the border that are coordinated together. It is a very contemporary pattern. A hint of olive green, coral and burnt sienna on an off-white base. Keep it simple is the key mantra. Less is more is another one.

From Madhya Pradesh to the runways, let us investigate why the fabric has captured the imagination of so many people.
Few tourists pass through the town of Chanderi, in spite of its 272 monuments. The simplest route to this remote hamlet is to alight at the nearest train station, Lalitpur, and drive 37 unwieldy kilometres from Uttar Pradesh into Madhya Pradesh. With roughly 30,000 inhabitants and a loom in almost every home (4,352 to be exact), unbeknownst to many, it is one of the most organised textile clusters in the country.
The diaphanous fabric of the same name, widely used in saris, is still created in the centuries-old tradition. But the history of Chanderi is fraught with the same roadblocks that have been met with by other handmade textiles — from royal patronage to the threat of power looms as a result of the Industrial Revolution, cheap imposters flooding the market leading to a sharp dip in popularity and demand, a loss of livelihood for artisan families to being on the brink of disappearing altogether. Hope came in 2004 when the Chanderi sari was awarded a trademark by the Registrar of Geographical Indications in Chennai. This meant that only fabric produced within the confines of the town could carry the label. While it has not deterred the many machine-made versions that are still produced all over India, a slew of designers has championed the material by insisting on using nothing less than the real thing.
Weaving is literally the heartbeat of the town. The streets reverberate with the incessant sound of the khatka, creating a fine environment for design and creativity. The fabric is known for its adaptability to a range of silhouettes. In recent years, Chanderi has inspired many a collection celebrating its luminosity as well as fluidity, which makes it very versatile for draping and texturing. The lightweight and the breathable weave is ideal for tropical climates, while its transparency and lustre allow for experimentation beyond the sari, adding a hint of richness to casual outfits and western cuts.
There is no divide between modern and traditional, it depends on how you use it. One can say that the material is so simplified and basic that it moulds into any kind of aesthetic.
Over the years, armed with the internet, artisans have learned to reach out to their customers directly, and this push and pull between craftsmen and clientele has taken quality Chanderi from high-end to high street; these days one can pick up a dress for about the same price as any synthetic, poly-blend outfit from Zara. Chanderi has the understated richness of the fabric along with its flowy texture in more contemporary silhouettes. It’s all-natural, airy, light and most importantly still Indian at the core.
As tastes shift towards natural fibres and homegrown labels, a new aesthetic is emerging that is most comfortable in a decidedly Indian skin. The secret to staying relevant for any heritage craft clearly lies in its ability to adapt to the times. 
Revival is a word that gets thrown around quite a lot these days. India has developed its own infrastructure and identity in global fashion. So when the question of offering something new to the world arises, we look within for answers and find them in our own culture and traditions.

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