Hand-picked saris and a store with a difference—all put together by two daughters for their mother.
I t’s a pleasant August evening and I’m sipping hot coffee, sitting beneath a ceiling lined with woven palm leaves, watching squirrels scamper up a mango tree. I’m not at one of the city’s heritage-themed cafés, but a new sari store tucked away in a quiet lane on Kilpauk’s busy Ormes Road. And, as it turns out, Ira—the sari store launched by two young women, an architect-cum-pilot and a chartered accountant—has a story that is as interesting as its collection of 500-odd hand-picked saris. “On our mother’s 60th birthday, my sister Sudha and I wanted to give her something unique and meaningful, and not go clichéd with jewellery. She came up with the idea of a sari store, since it is also a nod to our ancestors who were weavers,” says Suganya Sivaprakash, 32, the chartered accountant.
Built in their backyard, the 650 sq ft wood-and-glass space has been designed by Sudha—who integrated the trees into her blueprint and ensured that the sliding ‘walls’ can be opened, to let the breeze in. “We wanted the store to be a surprise and almost sent our mother, Shenbagam, away on a month-long holiday. But then we realised we didn’t know if she’d like to run a store,” laughs the 35-year-old pilot.
Wood and weaves
With their mum giving them the go ahead—even asking that the space be made bigger than initially planned—Ira launched earlier this month. Everything about it invites you to take your time—cool wooden floors, multi-hued saris hanging between tree trunks, and a cosy nook to sit down and relax in. “We travel to places like Arani (near Kanchipuram) and Kolkata to source our saris. Though we are not fashion experts, we are all lovers of saris, so we follow our gut, picking weaves and motifs that appeal to us,” explains Sudha, while her mother adds that the soft silks in jewel tones and the lighter, everyday saris (especially a range with cross stitch embroidery) are among the bestsellers.
Making the cut
While they did target an older crowd when they conceptualised the store, the response across age groups has been so good that they now want to bring in a younger vibe, too. Stocking a variety of handwoven silks and cottons, Sudha adds they are also considering designing their own collections (“in the distant future”). “We will also source unusual blouse materials and perhaps tie up with a city designer. There are also plans to add accessories and stoles,” she says. As dusk falls, the squirrels up their chatter, and it’s time to leave, but not before a quick assurance that I’ll be back—to pick up a silk black and red sari I have my eye on.
Saris from Rs 2,000 to Rs 9,000.
—Surya Praphulla Kumar