Chennai needs no introduction to silks or saris. But the city will soon be reintroduced to exclusive Benarasi designs. Smriti Morarka, founder of the brand Tantuvi, is bringing her exquisite weaves to Lakshmi Silks only for today.
“We do not retail out of stores and we only make four to 12 saris of each design at a time,” Morarka says. “Up to 50 designs are introduced every year, but colour and patterns are rarely replicated.” This student of history confesses that she learned nearly everything about handlooms on the job. The saris come in traditional colours like rani pink, sinduri red, pherozi blue and bright yellow. “Benarasi is the only house of weave that has variety in itself. There is meenakari work, brocade, tanchoi and rangkat,” she says. As for the designs, there’s a lot of Mughal and Indo-Persian influence. “It is mostly from miniature paintings, shawls and architecture, and consists mainly of flora and fauna,” she says.
Based in Mumbai, the designer took to Benarasi weaves after her visits to the city with her mother. “I saw the plight of weavers in Benaras. There weren’t many buyers for this traditional weave and, therefore, no quality designs,” Morarka says. Initially, she started off with a small attempt to revive and sustain the traditional Benarasi weave. “It eventually went from strength to strength and here I am talking about it,” she says.
Morarka is proud that those who get in touch with her have “discerning taste and specifically look for pure Benarasi silk saris”. She adds, “Every sari created is like a daughter — it has to find the right home where it is loved and appreciated.” Tantuvi also does bridal lehengas in Benarasi silk, but it takes up to six months to make one lehenga. Tantuvi today supports nearly 400 people, including weavers and others associated with the trade —like cutters and dyers.
On Tantuvi’s debut in Chennai, Morarka says, “I agreed to this exhibition because Lakshmi seemed like a brand passionate about what they do—promoting handlooms.” They got acquainted when Vani Polavaram, owner, Lakshmi Silks, bought saris from Morarka for her personal use. Polavaram was keen to showcase the brand at the year-old sari store and convinced Morarka to step out of her customary Delhi-Mumbai circuit to exhibit her saris for the first time in Chennai.
Priced from Rs20,000 to Rs75,000. Available at Lakshmi Silks, Alwarpet, today. Details: 45032222