The sari challenges Western notions of innovation, for the diverse range of possibilities for draping a seemingly simple, standard swath of fabric. It’s a supremely engineered garment, and a marvel of design, for the sheer fact that it affects countless, workable iterations. For centuries, dozens of drapes have allowed women to engage in various types of labour and in other activities: farming; fishing; house- and office-work; childrearing; sleeping. The practical need for a well-designed garment that moves with the wearer is of the utmost importance, and its utility, convenience and adaptability, combined with a sari’s gracefulness, are precisely how the garment will take on new iterations.
Because what are the all-pervasive representations that Westerners have of India? Raj nostalgia in never ending slew of costume drama box sets? Yoga, mysticism and a souvenir of rudraksha beads in Rishikesh or a beach holiday in Goa? Beyonce and Chris Martin doing India with heavy dose of nautch exotica and lobbing coloured Holi powder with abandon in ‘Hymn for the Weekend’? Which begs the question, what are the aesthetics of an emerging post-colonial economy? And when something different from what we expect arises, why don’t we have the interpretative frameworks to understand its nuances?