Actor Kani Kusruti’s watermelon clutch at Cannes was designed in Kochi

Diya John who designed actor Kani Kusruti’s watermelon slice bag talks about how it came to be

Updated - May 30, 2024 02:06 pm IST

Published - May 27, 2024 05:07 pm IST

Kani Kusruti with the All We Imagine As Light team at the 77th Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals

Kani Kusruti with the All We Imagine As Light team at the 77th Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals

Carrying the watermelon clutch on the red carpet at Cannes was All We Imagine As Light actor Kani Kusruti’s way of showing solidarity with Palestine. The watermelon slice has been a symbol of Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation as it shows the colours of the Palestinian flag.  The film won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival 2024.  

The green, red and black beaded bag was a well thought out statement from the politically aware actor, says Kochi-based designer and stylist Diya John, who helped Kani put her look together.

“We bounced about ideas on how she wanted to be styled. Kani mentioned incorporating an element that would show solidarity with Palestine,” says Diya, who has a designer label Salt Studio and an eponymous store.

Kani had offers from labels outside Kerala, but she chose to showcase a homegrown designer on an international platform. So, most of the outfits she wore at Cannes were designed and styled by Diya.

Kani Kusruti with the bag

Kani Kusruti with the bag

Although Kani knew what she wanted to do, she was unsure about how to go about it. “Any kind of inscription on a garment would be too loud. We wanted it to be poetic, we wanted it to be subtle,” says Diya. They tossed around ideas which included a brooch, embroidery and patchwork, but Diya felt these could go unnoticed. Over many discussions the friends zeroed in on using the watermelon slice motif.

She adds, “The conversations stimulated my brain. I thought it would be interesting to include Indian craft too.” Kani’s wardrobe for the events took three weeks to put together — from ideation to execution.

Diya John

Diya John | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The handcrafted bead work embroidery on the bag is the work of two karigars (craftsmen) and took over 20 hours, while the construction of the bag took six hours. The embroidery was done at Diya’s studio, “initially we made a sample swatch in order to get an idea of the work. I wanted a 3D effect, which my karigars were able to translate on fabric.” 

Diya explains how the bag was made. “We had to make do with the materials that were available at hand, there was hardly any time to go sourcing for stuff. The embroidery is on gaji or mashru silk. We then used board and fusing to give it structure otherwise the shape of the bag wouldn’t hold.” It is not just for show, she clarifies, it is functional and can hold a mobile phone and lipstick.  

Diya’s work did not end there. She wanted an outfit that would also complement the clutch. So, they settled on an off-white dress made of Benarasi silk fabric with woven motifs in gold and silver. “The Palestinian flag also has white, so Kani carrying the bag could make quite the statement,” says Diya, adding, “With Kani in a white dress, the bag would stand out. Besides off-white is also a colour associated with Kerala.”

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