Traditional Mysore silk saris get a new-age makeover. The shimmering silk will now sport kasuti embroidery and bandhini techniques, writes ARUNA CHANDARAJU
Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.
AFTER ALL the euphoria of getting a Geographical Indication (GI) patent, Mysore Silk is all set to acquire a new look. After decades of sticking to trademark the grand old queen of the Indian silk tradition is getting a makeover with kasuti-embroidery embellishments, rich thickly woven pallus, bandhini techniques, exciting new colours like lilac, ecru coffee-brown and elephant-grey and contemporary designs. All inspired by traditional Indian architecture and ancient Indian jewellery.
"All these innovations are being done without in any way tampering with the purity and uncompromising quality that has characterised Mysore silk fabrics - including saris for decades," explains P. Vijayan, Managing Director, Karnataka Silk Industries Corporation (KSIC).
Mysore silk draws its fame from the purity of the silk and the painstaking production process, which ensures that every aspect of the sari is perfect. For decades it has been celebrated for the extraordinary sheen of the fabric, purity of the zari, the distinctive drape, a wonderful non-crush quality, and a butter-soft feel. And despite its delicate looks, these classy saris are not only very washable, but also durable. The zari too rarely fades because the yarn used has the maximum gold and silver compared to any silk sari in the country.
However, it is important to note that even today the traditional designs have pride of place. These new designs have added to the design repertoire rather than replace traditional designs. You can still buy your traditional-looking saris and classic designs.
So, why these changes?
"Well, we realised that we have to move with the times, adapt to change. Also, this is a way of capturing a larger segment of the market. The new designs will mean more takers among the younger age groups, who look for trendy designs, and new looks. The older age group will now have something different-looking to add to their existing classic-design collection. Altogether for the customer it is a wider choice now," explains Vijayan.
While seeking out the possibility of opening new outlets, for the first time, an exhibition of Mysore silk saris has been held in Kerala.
"The response was very encouraging," says T.S. Rajakumar, General Manager (Operations and Marketing), whose grandfather, incidentally, was the first manager of the Mysore Silk Factory. And, the KSIC is planning to acquire ISO-9001-2000 certification.
Both kasuti-embroidery sarees and rich pallus have been around for nearly a year now and have been received fairly well by the public. The other new designs will take a few months before they reach the shelves. Ila Dhulipala, the NIFT-trained designer who is doing the new designs says: "Although we are giving the body of the sari an element of interest with these innovations, we are seeing to it that it doesn't kill the inherent beauty of the fabric."
In short, the new designs are going to complement the beauty of the fabric, not bury it.
All these innovations have taken months of painstaking research and trails. It has been a learning experience for Ila Dhulipala, the design team at Mysore and the weavers. All this entails additional time and effort, before the sari reaches the shelves. For the kasuti work, the completed saris are sent to Dharwad for embroidery work by master artisans there. The bandhini work will have to be done on the saris in Bhuj, Gujarat. The new colour contrasts with stylish new borders need more attention in the dyeing stage.
So, are the saris going to be even more expensive?
"Marginally," says Vijayan. "The saris will cost about 10 to 15per cent more."
Mysore silk saris come in elegant printed versions (with or without zari), which cost between Rs 1,500 and 3,000 while the stunners, the plain georgettes and crepes with zari borders (some have zari on the body too) can be had for prices ranging from Rs 3,000 to 14,000.But the prices don't seem to deter the buyers.
"This is one element I always missed in a Mysore silk saree. So, I had to go for Kancheepuram, Peddapuram or Banaras when I needed to wear a very heavy-looking sari. Now, I have bought one and even gifted another to my sister-in-law as part of her wedding trousseau," says Delhi-based architect Nandana Roy.
The kasuti-embroidery fusion evoked mixed reactions. Some disapproved saying it was a rather forced fusion. The embroidery might be good in itself but it is a departure from the classic look of the sari: especially the smooth, shimmering look of the silk fabric and its regal zari, they felt. Others thought it was interesting.
And this is not all. There are a lot more designs waiting in the wings for the Mysore silk sari to go places.
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