Innovative designers like Anavila Misra and Sanjay Garg are making linen and cotton saris desirable
A scene from sari designer Anavila Misraa��s exhibition in town last week: the racks, filled with her signature muted earth-toned linen creations, are rapidly emptying into the eager arms of buyers. Anavila herself stands quietly in one corner, offering advice to clients who approach her to chat or consult. a�?I cana��t decide, Anavila. This one or that?a�? asks a young woman, arms filled with saris. She is Singapore-based, on a two-day visit to Bengaluru. a�?When I heard Anavila was showing here and would be present herself, I had to come,a�? she tells me excitedly. a�?I love her linen saris. I usually wear dresses to work in Singapore, but whenever I wear these saris my colleagues say I look like a goddess.a�?
Saris are never out of fashion. We know that. But occasionally they undergo a dramatic change of avatar and reinvent themselves, becoming relevant all over again. This latest wave of modern affirmation has been led by innovators like Anavila Misra and Raw Mangoa��s Sanjay Garg. Suddenly, a designer linen or cotton sari in your wardrobe is the dernier cri.
I sit and chat with Anavila about her design journey. She admits that 10 years ago linen was an idea ahead of its time, but a�?in my heart, I didna��t give up.a�? Creating gentler, looser subtle linen weaves which draped like a dream took determination, time and energy, and total reinvention of what was acceptable at the time. But ever since her first stellar Fashion Week show where she got a standing ovation as she strode
on to the ramp wearing her own simple yet striking linen sari, she feels happy she stayed committed to her cause. a�?This is what I wear myself, this is me,a�? she says, a�?The sari, as I see it, is a canvas. You can do what you want, fill it up with work or keep it subtle.a�? Anavila is subtle.
Subtlety has become the new fashion catchphrase, confirms Bengaluru-based Merryn Mathews of IHA designs who concentrates on making sari in linen, tussar, georgette and handspun silk a�� all natural fabrics. a�?Earlier we thought sari were for special occasions, but now people are thinking differently, especially the younger generation. Linen feels so good, falls so well and isna��t age group specific a�� far from what we imagine as the typical cotton a�?grandmaa�� sari.a�? Mathewsa�� designs are sans zari, clutter or bling, making for easy accessorising with a single statement piece of jewelry to create a dramatic ensemble. She believes Anavila and her ilk have acted as pioneers by carving a special niche for themselves.
Their clients are among those who want to give Bollywood-style bling a miss, yet wear something distinctively elegant. A linen sari would work beautifully for an afternoon lunch party, in place of the ubiquitous, easily tossed-on jeans. a�?Saris are still given so much respect, across generations.a�? And purity and simplicity of thought, content and design is returning to the forefront.
No coincidence, then, that Anavilaa��s name translates to a�?puritya�� in Sanskrit.