Three women talk about our favourite drape and how Utppalakshi has become what it is today
Tucked away in a nondescript alcove on Lotus Colony, just off the bustling Chamiers Road, is Chennai’s newest treasure trove of kanjeevaram pattu saris — Utppalakshi. Owned by sisters Shanthi Subbiah and Kalpana Ananthasamy, and sister-in-law Chitrabala Mohan, the boutique and its stunning array of silks opened quietly last September to a small party of family and discerning ‘fans of the craft’. The talented trio who have all lived in Chennai for over 30 years, profess to having a great passion for handcrafted Indian fabrics and jewellery; a passion which inspired them to start their sartorial venture. “Like most people from Tamil Nadu, we’ve all grown up with our mothers, aunts and pattis choosing only the most elegant of pattu saris for special occasions,” says Ananthasamy (47); she and sister Shanthi are originally from Nagercoil. “But the quality of the silks and the designs that we grew up with has changed over the years. Now there is a lot of pressure on weavers to deliver quickly, so they end up repeating the same designs and offering garish colour combinations,” adds Mohan (46). It was exactly a year ago when the idea for Utppalakshi took seed, shares Subbiah (50). “My daughter was getting married last year and we went all over the city looking for special designs. Our sari hunt even took us to Kanchipuram and Coimbatore, all famous for their handlooms of course but we came across a lot of ‘tested zari’, commonplace designs and colour combinations. So I finally worked with some weavers myself, giving them unusual colour combinations and motifs to use.” The results were glorious, and Utppalakshi was born.
The women confess that their focus so far has been on the creative facet of their boutique. “We haven’t advertised at all; though we have been busy these last few months! The primary motivation has been on the designs and on our weavers’ welfare. They are from Kanchipuram and Nagercoil. We work only with pure silks with original zari by giving our weavers the colour combinations and motifs we prefer,” explains Subbiah. Expect a refined palette of silks in rainbow hues, everything from classy beige with a pink and green Ganga-Jamuna border, a vibrant yellow with a temple border juxtaposed with half-circles on the body, to a wedding maroon with an unusual pattern of annams (peacocks) in geometric circles, multi-coloured checks and much more. “Our saris are then beautifully hand-embellished in Nagercoil — you’ll find everything from Belgian embroidery, petit-point, to now Kalamkari — our newest project,” she adds. “We carry no more than 350 limited-edition saris (and change the collection every week), some pure silk material and paavadais for girls — but you will not find a replica of your sari anywhere else in the world,” says Subbiah, adding that the detailed workmanship could take anywhere between three months and a year, to complete.
By appointment only. Online orders on their Facebook page. Rs 6,500 onwards. Details: 9789937149 and facebook.com/Utppalakshi