What does your sari say?

For over 50 years, Karol Bagh Saree House has been known for its elegant sari collection. So when their pallus began to give ma-behen gaalis, we decided to find out if profanity is the latest fashion trend

We caught up with Sanya Dhir, brand director of Go Jawaani, the latest extension under the New Delhi-based sari brand to  talk about what makes a sari modern.

Who is Go Jawaani's target audience?
At Go Jawaani we are attempting to break the prevailing myth that the sari is only meant to be worn at weddings and by traditional women.  Our main focus is to create a strong lifestyle brand that can compete with some of the best global youth brands like Zara, so that youngsters may warm up to the idea of wearing a sari more often. Our target therefore is the modern woman who wants to exude power, grace and elegance. We want young college goers to see the sari as a fun, feminine wardrobe option. We want working women to feel like they own the meeting room when they enter in a sari, without associating it with a cumbersome draping process. In fact, we want New Yorkers to wear the sari when they want to step out in style.

How did you come up with the concept?
The idea came about because of the need to not just keep the sari alive but also to make it a global phenomenon beyond marriages, family functions, etc. We wanted to establish it as a mainstream category in international retail stores.

Karol Bagh Saree House, which deals in traditional sarees, has a loyal customer base. Is there a risk of alienating this buyer with the risque collection?
We are very clear about the two kinds of customers we are dealing with. The KBSH loyalists currently are women who already wear Indian clothing as a matter of habit. The mission of Go Jawaani is to convert modern women -- who have abandoned Indian clothing on a regular basis -- to sari wearing women. So obviously, the message sent to them is going to be very different from our communication with KBSH patrons. We are reinventing the sari in a way that has never been done before so obviously, when you shake the system a little there is bound to be some appreciation and some skepticism.

What is the idea behind using belts, collars and other elements, which aren't usually associated with the drape?
With Go Jawaani we are adding new elements to the traditional drape to make the sari more fun, fashionable and functional. We are adding belts, collars, pockets, jackets, zips and bows to create designs that set new trends while being user-friendly for the modern woman.  

Oprah Winfrey on her recent visit to India was seen wearing a sari on many occasions. Do you think the sari will be taken up as international apparel anytime soon?
As far as making a fashion statement or clothing for formal events is concerned, the sari already has a presence internationally, albeit in a niche segment. Recently, Herm s launched a limited collection of saris and a few years ago the Pussycat dolls shot a video in a sari. What hasn't happened yet is the sari becoming an everyday clothing option for women, which is what we want to change. My dream is that when I walk into any clothing store, say in Italy for instance, and there should be racks of saris on display as organically placed as other items like skirts and pants.

Collections under Go Jawaani label
Da Ping: It has an exquisite line-up of hand weaves, fine fabrics and functional designs most suited to the modern day corporate world.
OMG!: It dares you to bare your inner party vixen with bling sari designs that combine western club wear elements with the sari.
Anti-Behenji: It has smart casual saris that can be worn for a casual outing without the fear of looking like a'Behenji.'
Oye! Teri Behen Ki: It  has got the world talking about its sassy, kitschy prints that translate urban Indian elements into fun-to-wear statement saris.
Haute Hindustaani: It offer you traditional Indian designs with fabric and motif innovations for stunning weddings and formal events.

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