At 22, Kolkata-based ethnic label Finesse has mastered the element of wearability
As Kolkata-based sari label Finesse steps into its 22nd year, we take a look back at its trajectory and its plans to stay relevant
When Sujata Nevatia founded Finesse in 1997, saris were a sartorial staple for most women. And though the last two decades have brought along a facelift in the daily wear spectrum, the sari never really went out of fashion. Today, Nevatia’s son Shreevatsa, a journalist, has returned home to Kolkata to help position Finesse as a brand which recognises the importance of wearability that should accompany a handwoven sari, be it the most gorgeous Mangalgiri from Andhra Pradesh or the quirky Shibori Tussar.
We are told that the brand is guided by the principle that modernity and tradition aren’t entirely exclusive of each other. We found Shreevatsa to catch us up on the label’s plans:
Tell us how Finesse's line-up has evolved in 22 years.
Finesse began in Alipore with a collection of traditional outfits and a small selection of saris. A trip to Banaras soon after marked the start of a new journey to becoming a stop exclusively for handwoven saris. The collection evolved from there with travels around the country to source different kinds of saris.
Finesse now has a few-thousand-strong base of regulars, who have always—and continue to—love the saris we offer, we’ve revamped our Alipore store space and launched our e-commerce website.
How would you say Kolkata's approach to the sari has changed in the last two decades?
On one hand, a lot of women who used to wear saris regularly, have moved to don the more “casual” alternative of kurtas. And for them, saris have moved from everyday garments to occasion wear.
On the other hand, there is also a whole other demographic, mainly younger women, who have taken to saris, especially handwoven saris in airy fabrics, with gusto; people are looking at different ways to drape, experimenting with blouse pairings, etc. I have noticed that there is a growing interest in traditional designs.
Can you tell us about the weaver communities you work with? Where are they based?
We work mainly with weavers based in Banaras. We do also source sarees from some clusters in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.
What are some of your signature pieces?
We have always been known for our Benarasi weaves. The handwoven Benarasi in different kinds of silk, some of which have real zari work and some have no zari woven into them at all, are the most sought-after. That is closely followed by our Ikat collection of Gujarat patola and silk Andhra ikats.
What does your clientele look like?
Our clientele is largely women, in their late 30s-early 40s and above. They are usually women who know their saris and are on the lookout for new, exclusive designs. We have a small base of millennial customers, usually ones who come looking for festive wear.
Can you reveal any plans for the future of Finesse?
We’re hoping to explore the various different avenues the sari lends its versatility to—from being an icon of sustainable clothing to being revamped into edgy traditional wear.
The idea is to celebrate the sari, to encourage more women to give it a chance. We’re hoping to be able to create a space where other designers from the city can display their designs.
Can you tell us something about the price range?
Our saris are divided into five collections and the prices range from Rs2,200 for the cotton in our Kolkata collection to Rs 40-50,000 and beyond for our Banarasis. We have a few Benarsis with real gold zari which go up to Rs1-1.5 lakh.