89 ways to wear the saree and counting - The Sari Series is building a digital repository of the Indian drape
The saree is worn in different ways by different communities in various regions of India. Homogenisation threatens to obliterate the diverse traditions of saree draping.The Sari Series wants to document the drape in all its forms.
Malika Verma Kashyap moved to India from Canada in 2007. She founded Border&Fall in 2013 as a digital publication and agency to actively participate and identify those shaping India's design language. One of the projects of Border&Fall is ‘The Sari Series’, which is a digital anthology documenting India’s saree drapes.
Says Kashyap, “Many have worked for decades to champion the sari; Chantal Boulanger wrote An Illustrated Guide to the Indian Art of Draping in 1997, and Rta Kapur Chishti’s Saris: Tradition and Beyond explored the same in 2010. Both these books are compilations of over 100 sari drapes and a testament to decades of laborious work by their authors.” The project is an attempt to add to the existing research and documentation surrounding what is often considered one of the oldest forms of garments still in use.
The Sari Series has two parts: the first is a series of over 80 how-to drape short films. Each film is under two minutes and clearly demonstrates how-to drape a sari style from a particular region in India, represented through fifteen states. Every drape stays true to its region, whereas Border&Fall styled the textiles and blouse pairings in order to represent the sari in a new light.
The second part consists of three independent films exploring the sari’s past, present and future directed by filmmakers Q, Pooja Kaul, and Bon Duke.
Says Kashyap, “It's important to note that this is not an attempt at revival - it is a documentation. The sari is not a forgotten tradition, it is worn by millions of women everyday. As a garment, the sari is very much alive. Most people think of the sari in three parts (sari, blouse, and petticoat) [or] as something elders wear, and with an imposed rigidity and ‘correct’ way of wearing. And that it needs 25 safety pins! None of this is true. It has many drapes, can be worn without blouses at times, and without a petticoat as well, anyone can wear it, in any way. The intention of the The Sari Series was to answer the following questions: Can we take another look at a garment that is looked at increasingly seen as traditional and moving towards occasion wear in urban India? What does a sari look like on women today?”
Border&Fall carefully built a strong and balanced team to execute The Sari Series, including their first collaborator for the project, Rta Kapur Chishti, considered India’s leading authority on the sari and its drape. As the project’s Sari Advisor, Rta Kapur and her team at Taanbaan helped in realising this project, lending its expertise to ensure correct representations of the drapes. Border&Fall also worked with the guidance of an advisory board including Sunitha Kumar Emmart, Founder/Director of GallerySKE and Sanjay Garg, Textile Designer/Founder of Raw Mango.
Adds Kashyap, “This project was also an opportunity to develop a design aesthetic – allowing for a visual representation of the sari that does not come across as either traditional or ‘contemporary’ (or appropriated). Professionals working with India’s design communities are aware of the burgeoning aesthetics that still lack a representative set of visuals and language to accurately express the changes taking shape, many of them over the last few decades.”
After launching The Sari Series in October 2017, Border&Fall’s current focus is to screen the three independent films in-person to as wide an audience as possible. They’ve so far had screenings in Bangalore, Chicago, Delhi, Karachi, Mumbai, New York City and Singapore.
The Sari Series has so far been recognized by Google's Art & Culture and The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City who showcased five films as part of their exhibit 'Items: Is Fashion Modern?'.
The non-profit initiative is supported by Good Earth, Raw Mango, Verve, Kickstarter and many others.