Rich, decadent handloom sarees have made a comeback with Bollywood leading the pack and looking glitzier than ever before. Across the board we have seen reworked handlooms, which at this point, have shed any semblance of muted or boring and have come back re-ignited in super colours of the rainbow. Bollywood actress Dia Mirza, Jaya Baachan, Rani Mukerji, Tabu and television personalities such Mandira Bedi and Mini Mathur are all embracing this new movement.
Luxury can have many connotations and in fashion it can be equated to the tactile nature of materials and the attention to detail or the craftsmanship afforded to both the design and manufacturing process. In India, there is a rich tradition and history of craftsmanship that relates back to the fabricator and manufacturer. Hand weaving a saree is a meticulous process of conceptualising and projecting what the final product feels and looks like after it is created. Behind each saree are long hours of conceptualising, hard labour and intricate weaving, with techniques dating back centuries.
One designer who works very closely with master handloom weavers is Sanjay Garg of Raw Mango. Credited with single handedly bringing back the handloom saree, he works closely with weavers to understand the quality of the thread, it’s performance and what the final result might look like. The result is sumptuously lavish sarees with a contemporary feel. His rich and multifaceted oeuvre offers Chanderi silks, Banaras weaves, Gujrati mashrus, Akola block printing and Gawali textiles.
His ability to create drama through simplicity is part of what makes Sanjay Garg designs work so intriguing – as well as widely emulated, though never quite matched. For my money, though his manufacturing may be in India rather than in Paris and with five sarees on display in a permanent collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Raw Mango’s craftsmanship is pretty much unsurpassed anywhere in the world.
Elora Das is a fashion writer and director of pureplay indian fashion site www.byelora.com