Sari designer Pradeep Pillai gives traditional Venkatgiris, Chanderis and Nalanda tussars an edgy nudge to make them more contemporary

Baawan booti, Taangaliya, Surajpur, Nalanda, Sarnath…Such evocative names, and all of them associated with saris. Pradeep Pillai designs saris. A graduate of National Institute of Fashion Technology, Pillai has taken traditional weaves and lent them a little twist (not so much that they make them unrecognisable) to give you pause for thought.

Take the Taangaliya. They are instantly recognisable as the shawls you might have seen woven in the Kutch areas of Gujarat. Pillai, inspired by the shawl, persuaded weavers to make a sari using the same technique. The result — two Taangaliyas, one in a deep maroon and one in black, with small, exquisite bootis.

Talking of bootis, Pillai has another range called Baawan Booti (translated it means 52 bootis) from the Nalanda region. Pillai explains how, at one time, a 52-booti sari was a must in a bride’s trousseau!

Nalanda Tussars are the original tussars of the region, says Pillai.

Tussars, these days, often incorporate Chinese silk to make the yarn stronger so that it does not break easily while weaving. But not these. The result is lustrous and soft silk saris.

The tussars come in rich indigos, sea greens and timeless beige, with motifs inspired by Buddhist traditions. So, the lotus motif abounds, as do designs from the ruins at Sarnath.

A favourite of cotton sari-wearing women, the Venkatagiri is there in all its splendour. There is a Coimbatore connection to this as the fine cotton yarn comes from here, says Pillai. The Venkatagiris have a sheen and elegance all their own. They can stand tall with the best of silks in a formal affair.

The saris start at around Rs. 3,500 and go up depending on the work. Pillai displays Venkatagiri cottons, cotton-silks as well as Venkatagiri silks. In some of the saris, he has used linen in combination with cotton to lend a more contemporary look.

His Chanderis have a different look too. For the purists, you will be happy to know that he has Chanderis with timeless old-world delicate buttis. For those who would like to see something a little different, Pillai has them too. Some of the saris have origami bird-like motifs and the Japanese-looking designs fit perfectly with the delicate Chanderis.

Pillai has experimented and played around with designs. But thankfully, he has not strayed too far from their original grace and beauty.

After all, it is well nigh impossible to improve aeons-old favourites such as the Venkatagiris, Chanderis and the Tussars. All saris come with attached blouse pieces.

Pradeep Pillai’s exhibition is on at Whispering Stones on Perks Arch Road between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. today. To know more, call 0422 2434151.