K. H Radharaman got reacquainted with his textile legacy in a casual conversation he had with his grandfather, who he says was a man of few words. It was that conversation that led the creative director of Advaya to start the luxury design label 10 years ago. Today, what makes his label different from any other luxury brand in the country is not how he has modernised the garment on the outside, but innovated the very fabric that the sari is made of.
We sit down with K Radharaman to understand what draws him to the sari, what makes it so special and his efforts in ensuring that the sari stays relevant to its modern wearers. Excerpts:
What makes the sari a classic outfit?
Sari is one of the oldest surviving garments in the world. It is an automatic classic that has come to represent who we are as people and makes us stand out. The sari is ingrained in our consciousness, and till date is a natural garment of choice for most Indian women. From a fashion point of view, it is a garment that assumes the shape and the personality of the wearer. It doesn’t bind you to a particular fit or contour. One can dress it up or down and wear it for any occasion. Most garments found around the world have limitations. Saris don’t. It is the most versatile for this very reason. The sari will never be unfashionable, that’s why we see women preserving their wedding saris so they can pass it on to the next generations. Sari is luxury hidden in plain sight.
Advaya is completing a decade in the business. How would you say it is different from other luxury labels?
Advaya means unique in Sanskrit, and I think we have managed to live up to our name. We are one of the few labels in the country who has worked on reimagining very traditional Indian textiles. Most of the designer labels in today’s world are working on embellishments and bridal couture. We have stayed away from that segment and managed to cut through the clutter. Our work has been about contemporising the craft and keeping things relevant for the modern audience. At Advaya, we are also craft agnostic. We explore all aspects of crafts without any geographical barriers.
Women in the South are very used to wearing sari, it’s not an exception for them. How do you make the sari attractive for an audience who already loves the garment?
My approach has always been to contemporise what is traditional. Most of my work, at least the standout aspects of it, has been about how to differentiate our products from what is found rather ordinarily. Contemporising means reimagining the motifs and designs, and that’s not easy when we’re dealing with traditional crafts. You have to do it in a way where the product doesn’t end up looking quirky. So we use classical design motifs but innovate on the textile fronts - for example, our linen Kanjivaram or khadi Kanjivaram that were previously unheard of. By contemporising the sari, you are presenting the outfit to people who have gravitated away from wearing it, as well as to those who are well aware of it and want to experiment with something new.
How has the bridalwear aspect of your luxury label changed since Deepika Padukone wore your sari?
It brought us media attention. It didn’t alter our orientation toward our consumers or change anything that we were doing on the grassroot level. We were already doing what we were doing quite well, which is also why Deepika chose to wear our sari. The spotlight has definitely been nice, though, because it gave us the platform to advocate for the sari to a bigger audience.
What can you tell us about your new bridalwear series?
The new bridal series we are launching is called the Eternal Series that celebrates the timelessness of the garment. I think that Indian brides ought to be given a choice where there has been a single dominant narrative. Despite so many choices, they don’t seem to have options. And we are providing reimagined bridal saris that will look as beautiful and relevant fifty years down the line as they will today. We are doing beautiful brocaded textiles with design elements that have inspirations from all across the world. The colour palette is also very diverse and runs the gamut from light pastel pinks and beiges to the bridal classics like burnt red and greens. They are cross-cultural, limited edition pieces that are purely made by hand, using the best fabrics and artistry of the highest quality. It doesn’t get more luxurious than that. They are modern heirlooms.
Also Read: 3 Fashion Influencer-Inspired Ways To Drape a Sari