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    With conversations about the changing drape, Himanshu Verma brings The Saree Festival to town

    The dialogue around the six-yard drape has been picking up over the last few years. A case in point, the recent #100sareepact that has been going viral, flooding Instagram with pictures of women in beautiful weaves. But when it comes to a conversation-starter, there isn’t much that can compete with a man in a sari! What began as an experiment in 2006—to explore contemporary masculinity and its fluidity—has since become Himanshu Verma’s calling card. As the self-proclaimed ‘saree man’ of India, the founder of Red Earth, a Delhi-based multi-arts organisation, cemented his love for the drape in 2014 with a travelling show, The Saree Festival, which débuts in the city this weekend.
    While a panel discussion yesterday had names like Anita Ratnam and Chaitanya Rao discussing the city’s love affair with kanjeevarams and how the cognoscenti are getting more design-forward, Verma says he is quite excited about today’s sari styling workshop (all about interpreting drapes and making it more personal). But first, I give into my curiosity about his sartorial choice. “Yes, it is surprising that a man wears a sari, but in today’s context, where people are drawn towards contemporary forms of clothing, even wearing a dhoti is a big deal,” laughs the 36-year-old, adding, “The sari is an open-ended garment that takes the shape of any body. Also, if you look at textile history, the drape was the most common mode of clothing—men wore dhotis and saris, and in many parts of the country, the two terms were interchangeable.”

    By the weave
    Verma works with younger, independent designers who are adding to the drape vocabulary. Like Lipsa Hembram, a NIFT graduate who reinterprets Odisha tribal weaves with her label Galang Gabaan, or Medhavini Yadav of Jaipur-based Resha who works with natural-dyed block prints. They will be at the exhibition-cum-sale, along with five other designers, to take you through their silks and cottons, kotas and paithinis. “There has been a sea change in how we perceive saris. Apart from the handwoven, which we focus on, there are a multitude of options—from digital prints, which I am very excited about, to Shivan and Narresh’s bikini sari. Going forward, I’m thinking of doing research-based exhibitions that will explore this new expression,” adds the connoisseur, who says he is happy to see gender fluidity in saris being explored on the ramps and in the stylisation of sari campaigns.
    Till Sunday, at The Folly. Details: 45991630

    —Surya Praphulla Kumar

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