Six yards of elegance was the trending hashtag on social media following an evening titled: India Day at the London Fashion Week (LFW) on 15 February, Saturday. An array of 17 beautiful, handwoven sarees were presented by models at the LFW with a narration running in the background that educated the audience of its origin and the distinction between each variety of saree.
India Day, first of its kind event in the history of LFW, started with showcasing dresses designed by the students of INIFD. Once it was over, High Commission's saree show started with the video message from Mrs Smriti Irani, Minister of Textile of India. It was followed by remarks of High Commissioner of India, Her Excellency Mrs Ruchi Ghanashyam.
The 17 sarees from different states included the Kashmiri Saree from Jammu & Kashmir, Phulkari from Punjab, Kantha from West Bengal, Chikankari from Lucknow of Uttar Pradesh, Mekhlachadar from Assam, Sambalpuri from Odisha, Baluchari from West Bengal, Chanderi from Madhya Pradesh, Bandhni from Rajasthan, Gharchola from Gujarat, Paithni from Maharashtra, Pochampalli from Telangana, Bangalore Silk from Karnataka, Kanjivaram from Tamil Nadu, Garad from West Bengal and Banarasi from Varanasi of Uttar Pradesh. All embraced and adorned by European and Asian models.
Saree is a universal attire of all provinces in India for women but their design, pattern and style of wearing differs from state to state in India.
Handwoven Banarasi silk sarees from Varanasi of Uttar Pradesh used to have real gold and silver threads which would take months or years for a weaver to complete. It got Geographical Indication in 2009 and the art is still preserved through hard work of weavers. Starkly different from the silk of Banaras saree is Gujarati Ghatchola which is made of cotton or georgette mainly, and only occasionally of Silk. Cotton is a sustainble material for the attire as the Ghatchola is made in Khambhat, a seaside town, and Gujarat is humid and hot for the most part of the year, making it suitable to the climatic condition. Mekhalachadar of Assam is made of two parts, of which Mekhala is worn on waist while chador rests on the torso, giving perfect flexibility for women living and working in mountainous regions. The Maharashtrian drape of Paithini saree is completely different from other styles of sarees.
Gerad saree of West Bengal and Kasavu saree of Kerala look similar as both have a predominantly white colour with red and golden colour borders. Another resemblance is that both of them are considered auspicious for religious ceremonies. Lucknow style of Chikankari saree is a typical royal cloth style of that place and is believed to have been introduced by Noor Jahan, the famous Moghul empress. Another royalty lies with Bandhani of Rajasthan which uses tie and dye method with bold use of colour depicting valour and Rajputana royalty, unlike Mughal style of simplicity in the Chikankari sarees. Much ancient to both of them is the tradition of Chanderi sarees of Madhya Pradesh which commenced in the 13th century and has remained favourite of royalty as well. Phulkari of Punjab uses floral work to characterize the agricultural richness of the region which has enjoyed an affluence flora due to the presence of five rivers. Punjabi women also wear stoles, shawls and Kurtis with the phulkari pattern.
The beautiful representation of a diverse and rich variety of sarees at the London Fashion Week was the inspiration of Mrs Ruchi Ghanashyamthe, High Commissioner of India to London whose rich knowledge and wardrobe collection of different types of sarees are evident to the people who happen to meet her. Special Assistant to the High Commissioner Mrs Vishakha Yaduvanshi, First Secretary in the High Commission curated the show over two months. Spouses of officers at the High Commission, representing a number of states of India, not only contributed sarees from their wardrobe but were also involved in curating the show throughout the preparation period. Beautiful description of all sarees was prepared by Mrs Swati Jha, spouse of a senior officer at the High Commission.
More than 200 people attended the event including Lord Tariq Ahmad, Minister of State for UN, Commonwealth and South Asia and DFID. Lord Jitesh Gadhia among others. After the show was over at the London Fashion Week venue, an event was held at the High Commission where Lord Tariq Ahmad addressed the designers who were also felicitated by the Deputy High Commissioner of India Shri Charanjeet Singh.
(Expressed opinions are personal.)