Six yards of elegance trended as a hashtag on the social media following an evening titled as India Day at the London Fashion Week on 15 February, Saturday. Sarees of Indian weave created ripples in the fashion industry watchers at the Victoria House where 17 beautiful, handwoven sarees – fabrics of six yards in length – were presented by models while background narration introduced distinctiveness of sarees to the audience.
India Day, first of its kind event in the history of London Fashion Week, started with showcasing dresses designed by the students of INIFD. Once it was over, High Commission’s saree show started with the video message of Mrs Smriti Irani, Minister of Textile of India. It was followed by remarks of High Commissioner of India, Mrs Ruchi Ghanashyam who admired the elegant culture and craftsmanship of India where diversity of saree-making constitutes an intricate pattern, a rangoli of colours. It was conspicuous in the saree fashion parade that followed.
The Saree show showcased seventeen traditional sarees of various parts of India including Kashmiri Saree from Jammu & Kashmir, Phulkari from Punjab, Kantha from West Bengal, Chikankari from Lucknow of Uttar Pradesh, Mekhlachadar from Assam, Sambalpuri from Odisha, Baluchari from West Bengal, Chanderi from Madhya Pradesh, Bandhni from Rajasthan, Gharchola from Gujarat, Paithni from Maharashtra, Pochampalli from Telangana, Bangalore Silk from Karnataka, Kanjivaram from Tamil Nadu, Garad from West Bengal and Banarasi from Varanasi of Uttar Pradesh. European and Asian models draped in sarees brought on the floor the elegance to demonstrate that saree is such an attire that can grace lady of any ethnicity.
Saree is a universal attire of all provinces in India for women but their design, pattern and style of wearing differs from state to state in India. The pallu style of Gujarati and Bengali sarees are distinct. Maharashtrian women tie it differently while Keralite women also have their own style of carrying the saree. Accordingly, art, design, print and work on sarees of each part are likewise differently depicted so that they appear prominently when worn.
The splendidly rich tradition of handwoven Banarasi silk sarees from Varanasi of Uttar Pradesh used to have real gold and silver threads which would take months or years for a weaver to complete. It got Geographical Indication in 2009 and the art is still preserved through hard work of weavers. Much different from the rich silk of Banaras saree is Gujarati Ghatchola which is made of cotton or georgette mainly, and only occasionally of Silk. Due to the fact that Ghatchola was made in Khambhat, a seaside town, and that Gujarat is humid and hot for the most part of the year, justifies the use of cotton as suitable to the climatic condition. Mekhalachadar of Assam is made of two parts, of which Mekhala is worn on waist while chador rests on the torso, giving perfect flexibility for women living and working in mountainous regions. The Maharashtrian drape of Paithini saree is completely different from other styles of sarees.
Gerad saree of West Bengal and Kasavu saree of Kerala look similar as both have a predominantly white colour with red and golden colour borders, respectively. Another resemblance is that both of them are considered auspicious for religious ceremonies. Lucknow style of Chikankari saree is a typical royal cloth style of that place and is believed to have been introduced by Noor Jahan, the famous Moghul empress. Another royalty lies with Bandhani of Rajasthan which uses tie and dye method with bold use of colour depicting valour and Rajputana royalty, unlike Mughal style of simplicity in the Chikankari sarees. Much ancient to both of them is the tradition of Chanderi sarees of Madhya Pradesh which commenced in the 13th century and has remained favourite of royalty as well. Phulkari of Punjab uses floral work to characterize the agricultural richness of the region which has enjoyed an affluence flora due to the presence of five rivers. Punjabi women also wear stoles, shawls and Kurtis with the phulkari pattern.
The beautiful representation of a diverse and rich variety of sarees at the London Fashion Week was the inspiration of Mrs Ruchi Ghanashyamthe, High Commissioner of India to London whose rich knowledge and wardrobe collection of different types of sarees are evident to the people who happen to meet her. Special Assistant to the High Commissioner Mrs Vishakha Yaduvanshi, First Secretary in the High Commission curated the show painstakingly, over the span of two months. Spouses of officers at the High Commission, representing a number of states of India, not only contributed sarees from their wardrobe but also involved in curating the show throughout the preparation period. Beautiful description of all sarees was prepared by Mrs Swati Jha, spouse of a senior officer at the High Commission. An additional advantage was to have a large number of lady officials in the High Commission whose skill and energy made the project successful.
More than 200 people attended the saree show which included invitees of High Commission like Lord Tariq Ahmad, Minister of State for UN, Commonwealth and South Asia and DFID. Lord Jitesh Gadhia and members of the Diplomatic community were also present alongside fashion designers and media persons. At the end of the event, the audience was awestruck to witness the allure and variedness of sarees of India. After the show was over at the London Fashion Week venue, an event was held at the High Commission where Lord Tariq Ahmad addressed the designers who were also felicitated by the Deputy High Commissioner of India Shri Charanjeet Singh.