Textiles Fashion

Lustrous in linen

The linen movement

A few days ago, Nandita Das was a picture of grace at Cannes Film Festival where she was representing her forthcoming film Manto, sporting an elegant peach-zari linen sari by label Anavila.

Lustrous linen saris are enjoying their pride of place, trickling into popular consciousness. When you think of saris, there can be more options than silks and cottons.

A forerunner of the linen sari movement is Anavila Misra, who founded her label in 2011, with the experience of having worked with craft clusters across the country. “A number of designers were working on silks and cottons and I was looking to carve an identity. I myself wasn’t too comfortable wearing silks and wanted something new,” says Anavila.

She mulled over the choices women had if they wanted to dress for an occasion and didn’t want to restrict themselves to silk. Linen seemed like an option. Until then, linen was mostly relegated to formal shirts and trousers.

She and her team spent six to seven months experimenting with the yarn and the weave to arrive at saris that had sheen, a good fall and didn’t feel heavy. “We use finer yarns, counts ranging from 80s to 100s and the loom is set such that the weaving is a little loose. A tight weave will make the sari heavy and it will get crumpled easily,” Anavila explains.

Most creations from her studio are solely in linen, allowing occasional blends with silks, wool or cotton.

Anavila works with 150 weavers in West Bengal and is now working on saris that will blend linen and kala cotton from Gujarat. A winter collection in deeper colours, with a little blend of wool is also on cards.

From plain linen saris to those with block prints, jamdani and batik… they have worked with many options. Linen, Anavila observes, takes to natural dyes with ease. Saris from her label have been sported by celebrities including Sonam Kapoor, Vidya Balan and Samantha Ruth Prabhu and each time, stand out for their elegance.

Weft and warp

Lustrous in linen

Sarita Ganeriwala, creative head and founder of Kolkata-based Karomi, is thoroughly enjoying working with linen yarn. A fine arts graduate from Baroda who then pursued textile design and development from National Institute of Fashion Design, Delhi, she is fascinated by the possibilities at the loom.

Linen saris from Karomi have linen as prime yarn and 30 to 40% khadi, cotton or silk. “Linen is breathable but has the tendency to be stiff. When linen is combined with hand-spun cotton like khadi, the garment is softer. Similarly, using silk with linen gives the sheen to the sari,” she says.

Karomi has tried jamdani on linen and the motifs — small, medium or heavy — are chosen according to the yarn and the end product. “A lot of research and development goes into weaving these saris — do we need basket weave or plain weave? Is it a warp or weft-based sari? Which yarn do we use? We think on all these lines. So far we have developed warp-based saris with linen yarn for the warp. We are toying with using linen for the weft,” Sarita explains.

Initially, silk was the primary yarn for weavers at Karomi. Linen is a relatively recent addition. “Linen is breathable and has a distinct texture which makes it exciting both for weavers and buyers,” says Sarita.

Tradition with a twist

Lustrous in linen

With linen saris beginning to woo the spotlight, traditional sari houses have also begun exploring that space. Madhavi Rongola of Bangalore-based House of Taamara notes with cheer that linen saris from her store have many takers in Hyderabad, thanks to online retail. She’s forthright when she admits, “Saris in linen is a small portion of what we do, alongside traditional handcrafted silks and cottons. Linen is wearable throughout the year in Indian conditions and it’s encouraging when buyers tell us that they receive a number of compliments when they sport our linen saris.”

House of Taamara gives saris a contemporary edge with the choice of colours and motifs. Linen saris here are blended with silk, cotton or khadi.

Buyer perception, Madhavi observes, has been gradually opening up to experiments. “We help them mix and match saris with blouses and accessories like vintage silver jewellery. Someone who’s eager to try something new but isn’t sure of how to go about it will be willing if she has help on creating a look,” says Madhavi.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 12:54:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fashion/linen-saris-are-making-a-statement-emerging-as-an-alternative-to-six-yards-of-silk-and-cotton-a-closer-look-at-how-some-players-work-with-the-unique-yarn/article18559008.ece

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