‘Sari Series’ Beautifully Documents The Drape Culture Of 15 Indian States - Homegrown

‘Sari Series’ Beautifully Documents The Drape Culture Of 15 Indian States

Each sari that has ever been made has a story woven through it. This may be a story of love, loss, labour, identity, transition, or heritage, yet in each of these stories the sari has constantly been its safekeeper. The beauty in this garment, as I see it, is that it as unique and magnificently different as the person draping it. “A sari never looks the same on two people” my aunt would say, as I browse through her collection of over 200 forms, listening to the stories she remembers of each.

When I was taught how to drape a sari, I remember being taught three styles at the most. My mother had one way, my aunt another and my sister a third. The concept of different drapes, and the legacy that each one carries in its folds had escaped me until I came across BorderandFalls’s ‘The Sari Series: An Anthology of Drape, a comprehensive cultural documentation of India’s sari drapes’ through a short film. The series, while creating a visual database of over 80 drapes addresses a much needed change of perspective when considering the sari. The drapes range from styles worn across 15 states in India, displaying the immense variation within states themselves.

The How-to videos are about 2 minutes long on average, and are available online completely free of cost. We got talking with Malika Kashyap, founder of Border&Fall about the series, the sari and what it has come to mean to her.

HG: Take me through your research process for the series - from each drape, each kind of sari, the folds of culture at the helm of each pleat, and the production itself. How did the series come to be?

Malika: “The idea for The Sari Series has been on my mind for many years, and in February 2016 Border&Fall began the process of realizing this project which released in October 2017. The intent was to create a cultural documentation of the drape as an accessible digital resource. It was important that this was factually accurate and yet, spoke to a forward narrative of the sari. To the address the former, we engaged Rta Kapur Chishti of Taanbaan as our Sari Advisor. Rta ji is a recognised authority on the sari and has spent decades documenting and sharing the drape. We approached the future narrative with a strong direction on the styling - from the choice of saris / blouses and website - all the visual communication speaks to the following core question: ‘What could the sari look like today?’. As such, we worked with an incredible team including filmmakers Bon Duke, Pooja Kaul and Q and Associate Creative Directors Rashmi Varma and Deep Kailey. The advisory of Sunitha Kumar Emmart and Sanjay Garg was also instrumental in this project.
The Sari Series: An Anthology of Drape is a non-profit project with a total production budget of 1.2 Crore. Good Earth was the first patron to pledge funds to make this a reality and is the lead sponsor of this series. In the Fall of 2016 we launched a Kickstarter campaign, raising an additional 25 Lacs through 404 people. The remaining funds were pledged by Verve and Raw Mango. We are eternally thankful to everyone who made this possible as fundraising was the largest challenge for this project. Finding patrons, especially those who respect the project and understand that the prominence of their logo isn’t the end objective is very difficult.”

HG: Most people associate the sari with the feminine, and consider it to be a feminine garment at its very core. Yet you have featured men’s drapes - something not many people begin to consider. Could you shed some light on the gender fluidity of the garment, and the evolution of the Form to surpass gender?

Malika: “Draped garments are historically gender fluid - the lion cloth was draped in ancient Egypt. In India specifically, the lungi or dhoti has been worn for centuries. Given that draping isn’t itself gender restrictive, I think it’s more important to ask ‘what is a sari?’. This is a word we’ve given to many lengths of cloth that were not necessarily called a ‘sari’ before. When one spoke of a Kanjeevaram and Baluchari, it never had the word ‘sari’ at the end. I see this more of a semantics issue.”

HG: What do you believe is the role it plays in the India of today?

Malika: “My largest learning from this project is about how powerful the garment is. From emotions, politics, surpassing cultural and socio-economic boundaries it is laden with memory, economic power and legacy. It is connected to the livelihoods of millions in the country - both the makers and wearers. I believe it has the power to transform, not only those who wear it but also the perception of dress from India.”

HG: What strikes me about the importance of recognising The Anthology of Drape is that it prevented the sari from having to conform to homogeneity - something that opposes evolution, change, and creativity of any kind. What the anthology shows us is the simple versatility of the garment. What do you have to say for the way in which the sari has evolved through time?

Malika: “The last major evolution of the silhouette of the sari was during the Victorian era whereby the blouse and petticoat were introduced. Since then, when one speaks of a sari they most always are referencing those three individual components. For instance when you gift someone a sari you never say ‘I gave a sari, blouse and petticoat’, it’s implied. Over the last decade ‘non-matching blouses’ have become commonplace, I think this is the only widespread evolution we can speak to (aside from the textile of course, which has become largely mill made and of one density). The idea of this project is to look at a way forward through understanding the past. The irony is we have dozens of drapes which feel very relevant to wear today. I’d also love for people to think about new ways of draping - who wrote the rules and why can’t we add to the drapes? Isn’t that what evolution is about?”

HG: What has the sari come to mean for you, post the creation of the series. Do you consider it in a different way? Has anything changed?

Malika: “The sari has always been in my life, post the series its power is something I have come to understand and respect much more.”

HG: Which is your absolute go to comfort drape? Contrastingly, which is you “form over function” drape of choice, if you will.

Malika: “My go-to drape is one I’ve been wearing for years and made up on my own: I pleat it in the back and wear it above my ankles. For form over function I love No. 49, the Yakshagana Kase Drape from Karnataka - it reminds me of something a warrior would wear!”

To watch the videos, visit the website here.

If you enjoyed reading this article, we suggest you read:

‘In Her Mother’s Sari’

Upcycling Saris To Make Beautiful Carpets, Meet Delhi’s Mishcat Co

The Colonial History Of India’s Favourite Sari Blouse

Related Articles