Poornima Koonath takes saree lovers through the weaves of India
I believe sarees have been around since the beginning of civilisation. Historians believe that the first depictions of saree like costumes can be seen in sculptures dating back to 100 BC. This garment is also given great importance in the epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana. This quintessential female garment has continued to tantalise and intrigue wearer and observer for centuries.
It is interesting what can be done with six-yards of colourful material. And while most regions in India have the standard draping style, Maharashtrians, Coorgis, Gujaratis and Bengalis have their own distinctive draping style. Similarly, different states of India have their distinctive weaves and embroidery patterns too. An Indian saree is more than just six yards of fabric, she encompasses within her folds and her pleats, the history and the geography of the region and the lifestyle of the people living there.
The looms in people’s homes have an interesting tale to tell. The weaves of sarees are given the names based on the region they originate from—Kanchipuram sarees come from Kanchipuram, Gadwal sarees form Gadwal, Ilkal sarees from Ilkal, Pochampally ikat from Pochampally, Benarasi sarees from Benares, Chanderi sarees from Chanderi and so on. It has also been observed that certain sarees can only be made in certain places due to the quality of the locally grown fibre, climate, and skill of the weaver—it is impossible to replicate the same in other areas. Unfortunately, the introduction of the power looms is slowly tightening its chokehold on the handloom industry.
Due to a lack of revenue and encouragement, the younger generation are hesitant to follow the family tradition. It is believed that many styles have died out with the people who knew how to produce them. Which is such a shame!
Five Pleats was born out of the passion for handloom and a desire to support the small handloom weavers in India. It is the beginning of journey and the fulfilment of a dream. On 24 August, Five Pleats was officially launched at the Concord Function Centre. This inaugural chapter introduced sarees from five Indian states—Kasavu from Kerala, Ilkal silk from North Karnataka, Gadwal from Telangana, Paithani from Maharashtra, and Patola from Gujarat. The launch also included a short video displaying the work of the weavers and the various processes involved in the weaving of the saree based on the region and the style.
Five Pleats took the Kerala Kasavu saree to the next level with the clever incorporation of the Kasuti embroidery from North Karnataka without marring the simplicity of the saree. Charu Sharma, Sheila Nair, Smeeta Nair, Steffi Kuriakose and Sunipa Herbert brought the sarees from the five different states to life on the ramp through a fashion parade. The versatility of draping a saree and incorporating it with not just other accessories but other garments too was displayed by Tanaya Das. Inderpreet Kaur from Beauty Monks did an excellent job in giving all models the traditional earthy look and Manbir Photography beautifully captured the memorable moments of the entire show.
Sarees have always fascinated me. I still recall the excitement surrounding my first saree draping experience. It was the year 10 formal. It is surprising how grown up and glamorous one feels draped in a saree. During the entire three years of my graduation I wore the saree to college. I was astonished as to how comfortable this six-yard garment could be once one gets used to it. Running to catch the bus or train was no longer cumbersome, what started as an adventure soon became a walk in the park. My fascination and interest in sarees that began with my mother was further fuelled in the company of like-minded women. The more I read about the various weaves and the history behind them, the more my interest grew. Every saree of mine had a story to tell—where I bought it, when and why I bought it. And every time I draped the saree that story was revived and retold. My sarees take me on a journey, for me they are more than just something pulled off a shelf.
The Five Pleats event was attended by saree lovers who travelled long distances to get to the show. I was also privileged to have Jodi McKay, the Labour Member for Strathfield attend the launch. She is an avid saree wearer and has worn sarees to the parliament on many occasions, most recently being 15 August. Jodi said she owns 40 sarees and enjoys wearing them as it symbolises womanhood in a very beautiful way.
With Five Pleats, I wanted to transmit my passion to the ladies in the audience and rekindle in them the memories that their collection of sarees brought with it. I wanted to enlighten them about the various weaves from the various regions in India for Five Pleats is an endeavour to celebrate the weaves of India. These sarees are sourced directly from the weavers and not from a wholesaler, thus cutting out the middleman. The weavers are paid in advance for their work thus guaranteeing a definite income. This also gives flexibility of choice to the wearer, eliminating doubts about the quality of the product.
Five Pleats intends to bridge the divide between the weaver and the wearer. I would like to see Five Pleats emerge as a trusted brand for authentic handloom and hand embroidered Indian sarees. I would like Five Pleats to be more than just a shopping experience!
Through Five Pleats I intend to take the wearers on an expedition through the by lanes of India where the artisans weave, print and embroider the six-yard wonder with love. And as you drape it around yourself, tucking in those five pleats and gently tossing the pallu over the shoulder, you breathe in your own style and makes it your own. Your saree and you set out on a journey, each enhancing the personality of the other. And Five Pleats invites you and intends to join you on this incredible journey.