A swathe of silk, lightly tumbling down a shoulder, floating as delicately as a feather in the breeze. If a photograph is worth a thousand words, this is just a little of what we gleaned when we looked at pictures of 10 limited-edition silk saris that have just come out of Benaras. With a deconstructed pallu and border, in fresh young colours like turquoise, ecru and ruby, they are as removed from occasion wear as possible. And that’s a conscious decision, says Priya Kapoor, the editorial director of Roli Books, for whom turning her untrained eye to design was just a natural progression of a lifetime’s interest in saris and textiles.
“I wear saris and I buy saris, but it wasn’t until I published a book on it (Rta Kapur Chishti’s Saris: Tradition and Beyond) that I realised it isn’t just an unstitched garment, but a weave for which every sari-producing state has a story of their own,” she begins. With a rich collection of old saris of her grandmother’s, the 36-year-old found it difficult to find that playful, almost informal work, today, which was once a signature of the Benarasi silk. “The idea was to bring back some of those older designs, but with a little tweaking—like a lighter silk, lively colours and a focus on one motif, to simplify it, to make it more everyday wear.”
Light yet luxe
Kapoor has named her collection Titli, in honour of her nani (grandmother), who used to curate collections of Benarasi silks in the early 80s and hold pop-up stores in her living room. “My parents were interested in textiles, too. When we were young, we’d go to the weavers and just sit there watching, listening and learning,” she shares. So when she decided to create her own line, she approached a family of master weavers her nani knew (who had also worked with textile historian Martand Singh’s Vishwakarma exhibition, in London in 1982). “Every time you wear a handmade sari, it is like wearing the ultimate in luxury. A lot of thought has gone into this—over a year of sitting with the weavers, designing the stylised feather motif (a little-seen pattern from one of her nani’s saris) and finalising the colours, where I chose what I’d want to wear,” says Kapoor.
A fan of designers like Sanjay Garg of Raw Mango “who are making saris accessible, young and trendy”, she admits the while she is not in the same league, it is a passion. Kapoor has already started work on her second collection of 10, which will be out in August and she says making the saris more affordable is something she is working on.Rs 24,000 each.
— Surya Praphulla Kumar