The ‘London Sari-Suit’ - Championing Its Artisans

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – This year’s London Design Festival from 19 to 25 September falls during London Fashion Week, so what better way to celebrate both than with the exhibition, ‘Transformation’, which unveils the ‘London Sari Suit’, created by the award winning, London-based designer Neishaa Gharat. ‘Transformation’ is a contemporary Indian design exhibition at The Guardian building, curated by the Create Culture. The theme is inspired by India’s culture of recycling and reuse: exploring ways where artists and designers have reinterpreted humble, discarded materials as design objects. ‘Transformation’ showcases work inspired by salvaged materials and traditional craftsmanship, revealing how contemporary designers are imaginatively reshaping the culture of recycling.

Gharat, founder of House of Gharat, has cleverly created the beautiful ‘London Sari-Suit’ by combining two different cultural histories, by refashioning her mother’s and grandmother’s saris and turning them into a contemporary suit. The British suit and the Indian sari are two iconic garments representing their countries of origin. Gharat says, “The Sari is facing a challenge and there is a need to transform both its use and the skills of traditional weavers to create a new future. The ‘London Sari-Suit’ is a way of tracing heritage and roots through cultural transformation”. The sari itself, is an ancient garment with historical references going back to 100 B.C.

Gharat hails from a culture where hand-me-downs are a way of life. Where a garment is not only altered to fit family and friends, but are also given second and third ‘design reincarnations’—which is why Gharat fits so perfectly into this exhibition. Arpna Gupta, Curator of Transformation and the Founder of Create Culture says, “There is so much emphasis on high-design and high-tech in typical design shows, so an exhibition focusing on waste as a resource brings a new perspective to the international conversation about designing for life in contemporary cities”. It’s acknowledged that designers play a key role in helping to deliver projects that are sustainable for their environmental, social and economic impacts. One important impact is waste.

The sari is fast giving way to Western wear in the Indian woman's wardrobe, as it becomes less worn, and sadly, the community of artisans who have weaved this cloth for generations, are becoming extinct. However, Gharat is championing these makers and is not letting the sari disappear; it underpins her work. The traditional Indian sari and the future of its weavers is a theme that manifests itself in her work. Next year is the UK - India Year of Culture, marking an important milestone in the relationship between the two countries. It will give Gharat the opportunity to further explore British Indian cross influences through the Sari-Suit.

Through her work Gharat is helping to empower these artisans, through innovation. By using her British-Indian cross influences in her work, and by redefining cultural relationships, creating new style synergies through art and fashion. There is a strong respect for the traditional married with contemporary design thinking. Together, this creates timeless garments and objects, helping keep these artisans relevant.

Photo Credit: House of Gharat