How this Indian start-up for handloom sarees is redefining style and tradition
Retaining the charm of the timeless drape, Bharatsthali is trying to make a difference- both for the weavers and the way we see a saree
In this age of quick slide-on clothes, draping a saree presents itself with a whole set of challenges. A working woman commuting in the crowded coaches of a metro or local train, juggling between work and life, barely managing to have a look in the mirror before leaving for the work... is she going to adapt to the saree culture that can be so consuming? Let alone a handloom saree-a luxury, for which one needs to pay a fortune for? How can a saree be pushed into the mainstream for a modern woman who has so much going on for her?
Retaining the charm of the timeless drape, Bharatsthali is trying to make a difference- both for the weavers and the way we see a saree. A bootstrapped start-up by Sumati Gogna and Veena Gogna, it is an endeavour to preserve ancient handloom art by blending traditional weaving with digital innovation.
For the love of sarees!
A Dharmavaram saree has paintings of roof wall of Lepakshi temple carved on the pallu and border. This strong cultural craftsmanship is becoming an endangered species, thanks to the machine looms and the replicas. It takes 3 weavers-10 hours a day for more than 3 months to weave an Uppada Jamdani saree. The price being asked for such magical human effort is deemed insane and usually, only a few have the eye for such savoir-faire craftsmanship.
“Bharatsthali was our way to ensure that we do our bit for the weaving community. In India, a handloom saree is much more than just a wardrobe staple. It embodies an essential meaning for the maker and the user. Beyond a utilitarian role, it is seen as a heritage, passed from one generation to another, from a mother to daughter or a mother-in-law to daughter-in-law. It represents a deep connection to the earth, to myths and beliefs, to community and identity.” Says Veena Gogna.
The culture, heritage and history of a saree weave are priceless, and Bharatsthali aims to recontextualise and revalue it with cutting-edge technology. Contemporary yet so traditional in its essence, initiatives like this hold the key to the future. The co-founder, Sumati Gogna thinks this could be the way to accelerate and revive ancient weaving techniques and handloom sarees.
She feels the need to reposition Pochampally silk handloom sarees. According to her, the unique Indian identity works in the favour of handloom sarees and is a valuable differentiator. She adds that the gradual shift in perception is visible and there is an overwhelmed appreciation for creativity and innovation these weavers bring forth.
For Bharatsthali, co-creation and collaboration with artists and weavers directly translate into cost-saving for the end users. This also gives the team a palatial scope to experiment with the colours and designs, making it relevant to modern sartorial sensibilities. A woman in her 20s wants to drape the flirty colours, fun fabrics and easy styles. For a woman in her 40s or 60s, silk becomes the ultimate choice. Call it the graduation of choice or the confidence of wearing saree with élan!
Floral prints and pastel shades- sarees here gets the makeover that they desperately need to make themselves relevant for today’s woman. Is silk cumbersome and too much to wear in daily life? Go for linen sarees- as light as air! It is an effort to make saree all-encompassing and for every woman.
At Bharatsthali, the collection of Pochampally silk sarees is handpicked and curated by a team of women. The fabric, texture and work on a saree help the back-end team to categorise it as per an occasion. A semi-sheer cotton saree doesn’t go for workwear, because the women understand that it can be uncomfortable under those cranked up air condition vents.