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Bridging Kanchi and Banaras



Santhanalakkshmi Pure Silks & Cottons: ethnic weaves for modern women — Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.

A DUSKY woman with an infectious smile greets you at the entrance. Step inside Santhanalakkshmi Pure Silks & Cottons, and it's a world of dazzling colours, vintage motifs, and appealing saris that only Indian women know how to carry.

For Santhanalakkshmi, a law graduate, an abiding passion for saris led to a new career and entrepreneurship. She set up her own store early this year. Hailing from a family of renowned restaurateurs in Coimbatore, it was a career move that she did not plan or even dream of. As a young bride in Bangalore, she confesses that she did not know what to do with her vast collection of saris. "I had over 300 Kanjeevaram silk saris, and in desperation, I put up a garage sale in which my saris were sold out in two days!" she exclaims. "Perhaps, that was the turning point."

But her real education began when she enrolled in Entrepreneur Development Program — a one-month training programme. An accident in the early Nineties, however, proved to be a setback. "I had planned to start out on my own, but it was shelved," she reminisces. The year 1998 saw her back on her feet, and she threw herself headlong into work. She exhibited her works all over the south: Madurai, Thanjavur, and Coimbatore to name a few places. It was around this time she acquired the licence to export her collection.

"Whenever AWAKE held an exhibition, I made sure I took part," says Ms. Santhanalakkshmi, "Tradition, is our focus and we specialise in recreating designs and motifs that are no longer in use." So, if you loved a particular border or a shade in your grandmother's sari, then the chances are that her team can deliver what you seek. "We use the latest weaving techniques to create ancient patterns and borders," she says. For instance, her team has succeeded in reviving the ancient mallimokku pattern with contemporary shades and pallu. And a few times, the zari is oxidised to acquire an antique finish. She has experimented with interesting borders and designs on the traditional Kanjeevaram, without compromising on quality. So, one sees Valkalam patterns on Kanjeevaram, with Banarasi pallu, making it both elegant and light. "The younger crowd avoids the Kanjeevaram, as it tends to be too heavy for casual occasions," she points out.

"Durability is vital, and I want to be able to give my clients saris that can be washed and worn on a regular basis," says Santhanalakkshmi. She also hopes to educate people on weaving techniques and generate awareness about how a sari is created.

While the handloom cottons are available in the range of Rs. 300 to Rs. 700, the silk cottons are priced between Rs. 600 and Rs. 1,500. The pure silks are priced between Rs. 2,000 and Rs. 8,000. Santhanalakkshmi Pure Silks & Cottons, No. 8, Bowring Hospital Road, Opp. Samad House, near Safina Plaza, can be contacted on 51132148/5484909.

HARIPRIYA SRINIVASAN

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