Dolce & Gabbana showcase fashion’s greatest chameleon: The sari

Fashion Updates

Dipti Sharma

The sari has inspired many international designers over the decades, and continues to do so. Recently, at a Dolce & Gabbana show in Italy, the designer label presented its Alta Moda and Alta Sartoria collection, and Indian model Dipti Sharma walked the runway in a printed sari. There was another remarkable thing about this: the model had the freedom to use the sari creatively, whereas runway models are usually mere vessels for the designer’s vision.

According to the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper, The National, designer Stefano Gabbana has said, “We have a model, an Indian girl, and we told her, ‘We’ll give you a piece of fabric and you do, by yourself, the sari and after that we’ll customise the outfit.’ We love the tradition. In this case, we love to put our touch on the Indian tradition.” That shows, yet again, how versatile the sari is as a garment, and how it can be reinvented for every new era.

Commenting on this, designer Anavila Misra says that she loves the sari styling at the D&G show and that it brings back attention to Indian craft. “I loved the styling and the sari. It shows us an Italian perspective on Indian attire, one that’s beautifully thought through and completely in sync with the brand’s language. I love the way designers are going to rural clusters and rediscovering our old crafts and textiles,” adds Misra.

Style-savvy Bollywood actors like Sonam Kapoor and Rekha have also put the stamp of their individuality on the sari, wearing it in innovative ways, and with unpredictable footwear, showing how cool this garment can be.

The sari is constantly evolving in the fashion world — new ways of draping, innovations with prints, cuts, and accessories keep happening. There have been various interpretations by designers ranging from Jean Paul Gaultier to Masaba Gupta. Then there are those who create something completely unique with a sari, e.g. British designer Christopher Bailey’s sari-trench coat; and Indian designer duo Shivan-Narresh’s bikini sari.

“Designers have been totally reinventing the nine yards, in terms of prints and fabrics, making it more appealing to the younger generation. We’ve had bloggers style the sari with a denim jacket, paired with sneakers; and you’ve got people who have even worn a sari with jeans. Now, it’s so common to see people wear a simple cotton sari at even fashion weeks, because it makes a serious style statement,” says blogger Hanadi Merchant Habib.

Through all the reinventions, the sari has remained true to its core. Designer Payal Khandwala says, “I find that the sari has certainly been updated, but in my opinion, it’s mostly [about] how it’s styled that has given it a new voice. The traditional blouse has been replaced by shirts, tank tops, halter-necks, jackets and waistcoats. The sari has been accessorised with belts. The new generation is definitely more open to experimentation. In terms of surface design, weaves and prints have moved into a more modern context; traditional motifs have been replaced by more contemporary elements. This helps tremendously, as does innovation in the yarn, such as steel, wool, and recycled materials — these help the sari retain its spirit, but make it more relevant to the times we live in.”

Masaba Gupta, who has experimented with the sari, leans towards an Indian approach. She says, “The only thing that helps promote Indian fashion is Indian fashion… and designers using India as their influence and not being so besotted with the West. I’ve seen many versions of the sari abroad and here. It’s definitely evolving, but I think it always goes back to its most conventional form.”

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