Bombay Showcase

Wear your art

Manjri Varde’s work uses Sanskrit chants from the Bhagwad Gita, quotes by Kahlil Gibran or Sufi saint Rumi’s ponderings, all in AumAkhsharm a font she designed.— Photo: Special Arrangement  

Fashion is constantly evolving. These days, there’s considerable emphasis on sustainable and organic fare. Moving away from fast fashion and its encumbrances, there’s also slow and intelligent fashion: the tag #whocreatesmyclothes is increasingly more popular, a case of label love.

Wedged between the two, is fashion that holds the biggest key to personal expression: wearable art. In an age where rigidity is seen as preserving culture and change is often disregarded, there are artists like Manjri Varde. At the age of 60, she’s redefining art for the modern woman with her brand Samanjri. Admit it; today, fashion is all about wearability, ease and effortlessness. So it’s natural that Samanjri can become the voice of the artist inside you. Varde, a commercial art graduate from Sophia Polytechnic, has been making art for many years, specialising in calligraphy. Her work is about taking the very traditional AumAkshar and using it in English with a Devanagari skew. She uses beautiful Sanskrit chants from the Bhagwad Gita, quotes by Kahlil Gibran or Afghani Sufi saint Rumi’s ponderings.

Varde explored a wide range of media until she finally stopped at clothing (for now). “I painted on paper and canvas, experimented on furniture and home products and took a step ahead into apparel. For me, each medium was just another piece of art,” she says. “I studied Commercial Art, since I was fairly decent at drawing. After you learn the basics, I think you can experiment farther afield into aggregate and diverse areas. Colours, form, structure remain fairly similar in all these areas.”

Love for colour

Samanjri combines Varde’s love for colour and art and extends it to digital printing on fabrics. That means sarees, scarves, stoles, kaftans and skirts that not only showcase your inner spirituality but creates a new style statement. “They’re one of a kind, with deeper substance in its origins,” she explains matter-of-factly. The label also retails modern silhouettes with a range of mini and skirts, shrugs, even jackets. There’s apparel for men, but we’re hoping the offering grows in the future. Varde uses fabrics such as cotton, mulmul, satin, linen and crepe.

Varde explains the calligraphy thus: “I was in the US and noticed the interest in Indian shlokas and mantras. But the language was a barrier for young people there.” She decided to create an English script that looked like Devanagari text. “I went to Achyut Palav for calligraphy and then I created AumAkshar on my own,” she says.

With her new collection, the label dips into Indian heritage and has now developed saris with antique gold zari borders. Another addition is a line of linen jackets form-fitted to perfection, along with Nehru vests.

“My latest was an offering at the Jaipur Literature Festival where words from famous global authors and the ones on my apparel shared a common platform,” says Varde.

Samanjri is derived from Varde’s name, Manjri, and added to the cult ‘ jo sama gayi ’. It’s the path of non-existence, “when you become your art and it becomes you,” she says. Varde is inspired by everything, by mostly “Rumi, Tagore, Walt Whitman, Seal, nature in all its glory in Paradiso. Human beings as divine, Shiv-Shakti, Yin and Yang, Purush and Prakriti. The Universe in its entirety works.”

In a world where everyone is trying to stay relevant, Varde knows how to make things work “It is a quiet belief in what our Vedas and what poets and seers like Jalaluddin Rumi, Rabindranath Tagore and more have left behind for us to understand and apply in our lives. Fashion can change, but some classic clothing doesn’t. Tradition only changes shape but remains relevant forever. And it is precisely this new outlook of tradition which I try to bring forth.”

For now, Varde retails online at Pernia’s Popup Shop, Indian Roots, Limeroad and at local and international exhibitions. As for the future? “There are no definite plans but I would love for the ideologies to travel worldwide and be accepted by people who believe in the strength of a woman, peace and love.”

Visit: for more details. Prices start at Rs 1,500. Sarees start at Rs 8,000 and go all the way to Rs 22,000.

The author is a freelance fashion and beauty writer

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Printable version | Jul 26, 2021 9:02:12 AM |

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