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This brand is keeping the sari in vogue

Kanjivaram sari collection at Kankatala

Kanjivaram sari collection at Kankatala   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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Over the last eight decades, this family has taken on the task of conserving, innovating and furthering the rich heritage of the sari

In 1940, Kankatala Appalaraju got on a bicycle and went around Visakhapatnam and its neighbouring villages selling saris.

Seventy-nine years on, the label has clients in far flung lands including Luxembourg and Norway. “I heard of Reunion Island for the first time only after getting an order from there,” laughs Anirudh Kankatala, third generation owner of the sari label. Anirudh joined the family business in 2015, and promptly decided to make its presence felt online. “We receive orders from 20 countries and 25 States in India,” he says.

In Chennai, for a three-day pop-up that ends later today, Anirudh has brought along 2,500 saris. They are however known to stock more than 100 varieties of saris. Each sari has sub-varieties, he explains, offering as example the Benarasi which, in terms of weaving, has phekwa and khadwa. There are Kanjivarams, ahimsa silks, Patan Patola and Paithani... but it’s the Kanjivaram that sells the most (around 40 %) followed by Benarasi, he says.

Anirudh Kankatala with his father Mallikarjuna Rao Kankatala

Anirudh Kankatala with his father Mallikarjuna Rao Kankatala   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

And that’s why it is a challenge to keep coming up with new styles in Kanjivaram. Their latest addition is the Kanjivaram bandhani, Kanjivaram linen and copper zaris. “Everybody is trying out something new. The Gadwal saris have risen in popularity because of the interesting colour combinations they are now available in,” he says, adding bottle greens are back in vogue. “Pastel lavender and burgundy are trending too. At Kankatala we strive to create unique colours. We have saris in mint green with grey border, pastel blue with silver zari, burnt orange with royal blue border,” he says.

Crafting gloriousness

The label works with 30 weaving clusters from 15 states. Each sari is handpicked by either Anirudh, his father (Kankatala Mallikarjuna Rao) or cousins (Arvind and Bharat Kankatala). “Some of the weavers we deal with have been working with us since my grandfather’s time. We are seeing a lot of third generation weavers,” he adds.

Kanjivaram sari collection at Kankatala

Kanjivaram sari collection at Kankatala   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Same is the case with their clientèle. And then, there are clients who use Kanaktala’s saris as wall art. “We sold a sari with the entire Ramayana depicted in its border. It was a Dhakai organza and cost around ₹3.5 lakh. We made just one of it. The other one is being woven now with the Mahabharata on the border,” he says.

But that is not their most expensive sari. That title belongs to a khadi jamdani worth ₹6 lakh. It took 23 months to weave it, he says. And these are surprisingly light saris. “Our heaviest sari weighs around four kilograms. It is a Kanjivaram with zardozi embroidery,” Anirudh adds. But a trend that he has been noticing in the South is that people prefer plain saris with embroidery just on their blouses. He is delighted to see that the younger generations have a renewed interest in saris. “They want to try new designs, light saris in organza and linen but for occasions they turn to big-bordered Kanjivarams. Initially, I was sceptical about the future of the sari,” he says, adding, with a smile, “Not anymore.”

Kankatala is on display at The Folly, Amethyst till 7pm today

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 8:43:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fashion/this-brand-is-keeping-the-sari-in-vogue/article29476924.ece

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