saris Fashion

‘Homogeneity in India doesn’t work’

We’ve seen draping workshops of all kinds, but there’s a new kind of workshop that’ll have you embracing the authentic and multi-faceted identity of a sari. The sari is a special garment for both Nikaytaa Malhotra of The Indian Draping Company and for Mrinalini Shastry who runs the sari brand 6 Yards Plus. The workshops are the result of the two parties coming together.

Mrinalini’s first sari was given to her as a present from her parents, she still wears it regularly. The first sari she ever purchased in 1998, though, is a Puneri cotton piece which has retained its sheen. The first time Niketa wore a sari was during a play-pretend game of ‘librarian.’

Since then, the sari has seen copious evolution and Nikaytaa hopes for people to reclaim the true testament of the garb — and a lot of it is to do with the complex history of colonisation. “Originally, saris didn’t require a blouse or a petticoat,” Nikaytaa says, “but now women wouldn’t think of wearing a sari without both. We’ve seen the NiVi style of draping everywhere but what of the other styles?”

‘Homogeneity in India doesn’t work’

The 35 year-old, whose Instagram moniker is @nikaytaa, will be in Hyderabad for a set of workshops about alternative draping styles. Her social media offers up snippets of these looks and she adds that when workshop participants try these styles, they’re often worried about whether it will suit their bodies. “These workshops have taught me not to judge myself harshly and I’m seeing more people emulate that after the workshops.”

On appropriation and gender

workshop wonders
  • Niketa and Mrinalini hope for Hyderabadis to have these key take aways from her upcoming workshops
  • Do not be afraid of the sari and your own individuality. These workshops aim to liberate the self through the sari
  • In this hetero-normative age, we have to be more open to gender fluidity. Through the workshop, in some small way, we can break down these barriers. It’s also not a garment from which young people should shy away.
  • Be aware of the fashion choices you make and how they politically align. Do some labels have a reputation for exploitation of labour or for ripping off designs?

The sari has seen a strong globalisation and Nikaytaa has worked intensively with people around the world to further its historical discourse. “See, when people don’t have a set idea of the sari’s backstory in their mind, they’re more receptive to my workshops; they’re more curious and tend to do their own research on the side.”

One thing that Nikaytaa pondered often was when people from other cultures would approach her workshops, would they be culturally appropriating the sari? “Over time, I’ve learned to distinguish cultural appropriation from celebration. These workshops celebrate the sari and its potential. I’ve honestly in my life have never seen a national garment that has this much visual recollection around the world; people just know it’s from India. In a way, this journey has taught me to be a better Indian, but in the sense that homogeneity in India doesn’t work. Every area has a different way to drape a sari and I want to empower that. Also I’ve become a better Indian by supporting the grassroots economy of handloom weavers and cotton farmers in India, even if it’s on a small scale.”

Mrinalini adds that changing the face of the sari helps further sustainable demand, adding, “One can power dress through a sari for work on the regular. It doesn’t need to be just about showcasing culture. I hope to take the hassle out of the affordability and accessibility issues faced by a lot of potential sari investors. After all, saris are a lifetime companion like no other.”

Nikaytaa closely follows the endeavours of Himanshu Verma, who’s popularly known as Saree Man. In fact, men frequent Nikaytaa’s workshops and often, she is the only one in their lives who are privy to their draping desires because of the lack of discourse with family and society. Mrinalini shares that the sari is such a unique textile that its power of expression is virtually limitless and she welcomes any form of it through 6 Yards Plus, regardless of the wearer’s phase in life or gender.

‘Homogeneity in India doesn’t work’

“A friend of mine in Bengaluru was afraid to come to a particular workshop of mine in the city because he was discriminated in an earlier experience,” Nikaytaa explains, “He had shared an interest in saris for himself at a shop and they had asked him to leave. Men also reach out to me on Instagram, saying they drape their mothers’ saris in private and no one knows of this. As a society, we need to be accepting of evolving concepts of masculinity. It’s heartbreaking that when a trans woman wears a sari, it’s mocked.”

Nikaytaa and Mrinalini are excited for the week to come, to learn from Hyderabad and vice versa. “We want to go back into ‘what is a sari’ and start from there,” says Nikaytaa, onto which Mrinalini tacks on, “We want to present a natural change into the quotidian lives of young people here.”

6 Yards Plus

In Hyderabad, you can find factions in Srinagar Colony and out of Evolution in Punjagutta; Mrinalini doesn’t like to call these set-ups stores but refers to them as ‘addas’ for its holistic settings of teaching and trying. Otherwise 6 Yard Plus is largely present online.

The brand, barely a year old, offers subscriber boxes for those who need a little guidance along the sari-draping and styling journeys, as well as haldi-kumkum gifting sets for brides.

Workshop details

The ‘Six Yards Plus’ workshops are scheduled for July 19 and 21. The session on July 19 at Phoenix Arena will have a seminar and a workshop at 11am (₹350) followed by an intensive workshop at 3pm (₹2500).

Another intensive workshop on July 21 will be at Evolution Contemporary Arts in Punjagutta at 11am (₹2500). For details, call 9949077784.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 1:23:10 AM |

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