CIMA Art in Life 2022 offers smartly designed handwoven saris to win over the millennials

The elegant exhibition will be on till October q
Priyanka Sarkar in a sari form CIMA Art in Life
Priyanka Sarkar in a sari form CIMA Art in Life

The pandemic has severely cut down on the consumption of saris, especially among the young ones., leading to a massive lack of income among the traditional weavers across the states. "With time, an increasing number of young women are increasingly losing interest in the nine yards -- they find it cumbersome and fussy as a daily wear and prefer to stay away from the saris except only for occasions," observes Rakhi Sarkar, director of CIMA Art Gallery.

Hence Sarkar is attempting to turn the tide for the weavers by curating a wide range of saris that appeal to the aesthetics of the women of today. "CIMA has always been behind the weaving community, trying to protect their cause. This year's Art In LIfe exhibition, too, will strive to change the concept around saris and present them in their youthful avatars for the college-going and the young working population. The display this year will be all about weaves that can be worn every day for every occasion by everyone," Rakhi tells us.

Like every year ahead of the Pujas, CIMA Art in Life -- a much-awaited event in the city's social calendar -- will see a display of the best sustainable weaves in vibrant colour, organic fabrics and modern minimalist designs. 

<em>Priyanka Sarkar in a sari form CIMA Art in Life</em>
Priyanka Sarkar in a sari form CIMA Art in Life

There's a palpable change in the way people dress up everywhere, especially in Kolkata, which has always taken a fashionable step forward when it comes to styling saris. "Women, we find are now experimental. They don't hesitate to try unisex clothes. Men are still conservative with their fashion but transgenders are using exciting new elements and are more stylish and funky. This is also encouraging us to perceive the sari in a more trendy way," says Rakhi.

"We want to highlight the fact that the saris can be styled in countless ways to change the looks each time.  It can be as essential an item as a pair of jeans in your wardrobe. They can be worn with anything, and not just be formal wear. You can turn sporty by pairing them up with t-shirts and sneakers or look peppy by wearing a nice crop top with them. Throw in some junk jewellery pieces to rock the boho look or just put on a nice shirt to get office-ready," she elaborates.

<em>Priyanka Sarkar in a sari form CIMA Art in Life</em>
Priyanka Sarkar in a sari form CIMA Art in Life

To that end, CIMA will also be holding a sari workshop with the globally renowned sari drape artist Dolly Jain on September 2, where Jain will be displaying a few of the myriad ways in which you can drape the six yards to make a statement.

Over the years, CIMA  promoted a lot of authentic weaves and motifs. A lot of tribal styles and weaving methods like Ajrakh printing, north-eastern weaving and jewellery, tribal weaving from Orissa and Chattisgarh will be displayed this year too. While classical weaving and wall hangings by master weavers like B.Krishnamoorthy and Govardhan from Tamilnadu and Telangana respectively are special features this year, rare sculptures from Bastar will also be highlighted. besides Kantha by the street survivors group.

<em>Priyanka Sarkar in a sari form CIMA Art in Life</em>
Priyanka Sarkar in a sari form CIMA Art in Life

"Keeping in line with the clamour for fuss-free and responsible fashion, the saris too need to be reinvented to stay relevant. So, we are trying to make saris lighter, simpler and more elegant besides being environment-friendly. Youngsters are idealists and we are gearing towards the simple, stylistic and hand-woven varieties using organic methods of dyeing," says Rakhi.

Apart from saris from CIMA, you may also check out a few popular labels on display including Paromita Banerjee, Hanshu, Parama Ghosh, Divya Sheth, Sunita Shanker, Sari Ki Almari, Red Grass and Street Survivors India Project Swyam Shakti.

n keeping with the theme this year, we have shot four looks with the very beautiful actor Priyanka Sarkar, displaying four very different ways in which you can drape and style your sari look throughout the year.

CIMA Art In Life starts on September 5 and will be on till October 1, daily between 11 am and 8 pm. 

<em>Priyanka Sarkar in a sari form CIMA Art in Life</em>
Priyanka Sarkar in a sari form CIMA Art in Life

Priyanka's interview box

Sassy, subtle and elegant, actor Priyanka Sarkar is a popular style icon among the young girls in the city for the way she carries all kinds of outfits. Her eclectic sense of fashion inspires confidence and we chat with her in between the fashion shoot about her festive fashion choices.

What does a sari mean to you?

Sari denotes a mix of many emotions for me since this is an outfit that's so traditionally intertwined with our lives. Despite busy schedules and hordes of clothing options, when it comes to a sari, we like to wear it to mark significant occasions in our lives apart from its relevance as daily wear for many still now. Whenever I wear it, it has to be for some special occasion like pujas or weddings or to impress anyone anywhere special. Sari represents an emotion for me, be it the first one that I got, the wedding sari or any special gift.

How do you like to wear a sari? Do you like to channel a boho chic sari look?

I love wearing the saris in two kinds of style -- one, a very traditional way with blouses that have glass sleeves and lace borders and traditional gold jewellery. The other way I like to wear it is the boho chic way, that's comfortable, relaxed and channels a fusion look, replete with white shirts, crop tops or body suits, belts, sneakers or boots and silver or glass jewellery. That kind of look gives out a very edgy vibe. It all depends on the occasion and my mood.

Do u feel the sari is losing relevance among the youth?

Not at all but I feel since it's such a rarely worn garment that they hold special relevance in all our lives. The youngsters are adapting the nine yards to their needs and styles and we see them turning their mom or grandma's heirloom saris into lehengas or kurtis, so that they can preserve the memories attached to the piece.

What're the ways you wear the sari to make it look contemporary?

Sari is a very versatile attire and a single sari can be worn many times over and styled differently to make it look new each time. It looks different each time you style your hair differently or wear different kinds of blouses. I usually do all kinds of experiments when it comes to saris. At times I wear them traditionally with a Sita hear, jhumkas, gajras. And at other times, I prefer silver jewellery, belts or sneakers to give it a ritzy modern overhaul. 

<em>Priyanka Sarkar in a sari form CIMA Art in Life</em>
Priyanka Sarkar in a sari form CIMA Art in Life

What is your favourite sari and why?

I love black saris and there are a few black numbers in my wardrobe including a black Benarasi and my wedding sari which are very close to my heart.

Any particular memory with any particular sari?

Well since we all grew up watching those Bollywood movies where actresses are seen in songs wearing chiffon saris amidst snowcapped mountain ranges, I always wanted to enact such a thing. And I got such an opportunity in Ringo's film Jodi Ekdin where I wore a chiffon sari for a song sequence in Manali.

What have you shopped for Pujas this year?

I bought a few saris for gifting. Usually, I buy two sets of clothing -- one set comprising saris and ethnic outfits and another set of Western relaxed casual outfits like maxi dresses for night-outs and pandal hopping.


Photography: Debarshi Sarkar / Hair and makeup: Abhijit Paul, assisted by Sananda Mondal Laha /  Styling: Anupam Chatterjee / Jewellery: CIMA and Aranya / Location courtesy: The Astor Hotel

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