‘The Kanjeevaram is mostly associated with special occasions such as marriages in Southern India. But the traditional silk saree is getting a contemporary look, says Shruti Kothari Tomar’
We sport linen shirts and trousers, even tunics and dresses made from the plant-based natural fabric, which is known for a smart casual style. But ever heard of a linen Kanjeevaram saree? While to a layman, the combination of “contemporary” linen with the “traditional” silk sarees of Tamil Nadu may seem far-fetched, a Bengaluru-based design house has successfully woven the two together to create a unique fabric. Experts say, linen, with its natural sheen is perfect to be combined with silk.
Traditionally these intricate sarees in jewel tones are woven with premium mulberry silk and never moved away from the conventional silk-by-silk (warp and weft) composition. But a change had to be made and it was discovered that the trick to weave an entirely new Kanjeevaram was by replacing the yarn of the weft. So while the warp remained 100 per cent silk, linen became the chosen yarn for the weft. However, this does not change the design vocabulary of the saree. The motifs used in a traditional Kanjeevaram’s border, body and pallav or pallu (loose end of a saree), remain true to form, thereby ensuring the quality of the weave is not diluted or compromised. The result is a saree that looks traditional yet is more adaptable to the younger generation’s choice.
The brains behind this unique innovation is K Radharaman, a passionate crusader for the preservation of traditional textiles and craft techniques.
Signature innovations that make the Kanjeevaram more wearable while maintaining its essence are Radharaman’s mainstay. Kanjeevaram and linen blend, khadi Kanjeevaram, an unusually lightweight organza Kanjeevaram saree and a unique tussar Kanjeevaram comprise Radharaman’s signature and copyrighted textile inventions. “Through my sarees, I am not only celebrating South India’s traditional textiles but also bringing them to the forefront by making them both wearable and fashionable at the same time,” explains the designer. His sarees become lighter in weight, get contemporary motifs, more colours are added to the palette and they can be styled in interesting ways. Radharaman’s tryst with textiles is not newfound. He hails from the Angadi family, which belongs to the Padmasaliya community, the traditional silk weavers from South India. Armed with a 600-year-old textile legacy, he established the House of Angadi in Bengaluru. Yes, the same brand from where Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone’s wedding saree was chosen!