To designer KH Radharaman, innovating textiles means juxtaposing culture with modernity. His intelligent interplay of the popular Kanjeevaram weave has successfully projected his innovative vision for handicrafts. In an exclusive conversation with ELLE, the master weaver talks about his latest bridal line and the intricacy with which it was created.
ELLE: What is the inspiration behind The Eternal Series?
KH Radharaman: It draws on a variety of influences that have never been referenced in the creation of a handloom sari. From beautiful creepers inspired by Victorian textiles to the magnificent Fil de Coupe—it draws from a vast repository of textile documents from around the world. The series aims to contemporise traditional Indian motifs in terms of their treatment and representation. From a Peacock and The Tree of Life to Paisleys embellished with beautiful detailing—the brocaded textiles transcend the commonly found interpretation of these design elements and bring to life what can only be described as Art on textiles.
ELLE: How are the designs in the collection different from regular Kanjivaram saris?
KHR: Contrary to the popular belief that a handloom sari is formal in its drape, the saris in the Eternal Series offer the modern bride a fabric palette ranging from the light organza Kanjivaram to the cascading flow of the handwoven Kanjivaram silk. The use of zari to embellish the body in elaborate means and the depiction of detailed motifs is relatively new to the Kanjivaram genre and emerged strongly only post the introduction of jacquards in the ’80s and ’90s. Prior to this most Kanjivaram saris were limited to extra warp elements like checks and stripes, and small scale extra weft motifs rendered using the butta technique. With the advent of jacquards, the scale and complexity of designs have improved and more elaborate brocaded textiles with scales of up to a few centimetres have become common practice.
ELLE: Tell us more about the story behind the motifs and the colour palette.
KHR: Every Sari has a design story of its own. Here, I have chosen 6 design stories that correlate with 6 looks that were shot for the campaign:
– Soft Pink Organza Kanjivaram With Creepers
A traditional all-over wreath shaped creeper woven using the Khadua Technique on silk organza Kanjivaram. The Creepers consist of a series of smaller detailed elements strung together like a floral garland or a beautiful necklace.
– Burnt Red Warp Tissue With All-over Brocade
This sari comes alive in the soft afterglow of the morning or evening sun. The hushed tone is made possible by the use of real zari in the warp as opposed to the weft as is the case normally.
– Amber, Scene of Forest
Woven in a dual coloured shade of orange, the sari has all the attributes of a contemporary classic. Each Design element and motif stands out for the extent of detailing that has gone into making the whole composition.
– The Bottle Green – Maroon Contrast With Paisley
This Brocade has a beautiful broad contrast border that is a signature of a traditional Kanjivaram and the Rangkat technique is used to enhance and highlight the paisley motif.
– The Red Organza
A rare layout in a dramatic floating jaal that traverses the length of the sari at an attractive angle. Ebbing and flowing with each pleat and curve, the sari is unique for its placement and proportion of motifs that are intricately laid out on a bridal red organza Kanjivaram.
ELLE: Which trends do you foresee for brides in the near future?
KHR: Going against the grain of mass, Bollywood-inspired wedding themes and their attendant excessive grandiosity, the Modern Indian Wedding shall evolve into a sophisticated blend of tradition and modernity. We see more wedding settings that have greater cultural context and clothing choices appropriate to these settings. The handwoven sari we predict will become the heroine of the cerebral bridal occasion – just as it has been for several centuries in the past.
ELLE: What sets the Advaya collection apart from the rest?
KHR: The collection is a blueprint for the modern Indian wedding told through the evolution of the bridal sari. Inspired by centuries of our family’s weaving expertise, we have managed to create a series of never seen before designs that have boldly altered the design language of the bridal sari. While bridal saris of the past were limited in their ability to showcase motifs beyond their native vocabulary, the Eternal Series displays an array of designs that are truly cross-cultural in their visual appeal. Lined with pure silk and gold, where warp and weft tell the story of the cultural revolution of the sari from a traditional heirloom to a modern classic.