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Show highlights Banarasi brocade textile classics
29
Feb '16
Courtesy: National Museum India
Courtesy: National Museum India
Three wedding sarees in mauve, white and classic red purchased in Madras, Bangalore and Calcutta some three decades ago, are the toast of an exhibition on Banarasi brocade textile now being held at the national Museum in New Delhi.

The three sarees are among several items that have been loaned by individuals to the National Museum for its recently opened month-long exhibition 'Unbroken Thread: Banarasi Brocade Sarees at Home and in the World." Banarasi brocade textile is counted among the finest in the subcontinent's hand weaving skills.

Over 100 exhibits from the Museum's textile collection and objects representing the contemporary interpretations of the Banarasi Saree from private lenders are on display at the exhibition curated by Abeer Gupta, Suchitra Balasubramanyam and Anamika Pathak, according to an agency report.

One of India's top designers, Ritu Kumar said, "The weaves of Banaras are the only surviving textiles in the world, where the skills of the master weavers create handlooms which are a true statement of the bespoke garment."

"These weaves and textiles are the most haute couture of all. Banaras weaves are almost like a monument worth preserving, like no other in the world," said the designer whose creations on display include a traditional pink brocade sari, choli with gold churidars and lehanga-choli.

Banaras (now Varanasi) an established ancient cotton weaving centre began to be known for its silk brocade weaving in the 17th century with the arrival of brocade weavers from Gujarat.
The Banarasi saree is known for its fine detailing and naturalistic representation of human, animal and floral forms which were earlier achieved using the medieval 'naksha' technology. Since the 20th century, weavers have adapted the jacquard technology for saree weaving.

For over a century the Banaras brocades have been showcased overseas. At London's Great Exhibition (1851), at the Textile and Ornamental Arts of India in New York (1955) and at the Festivals of India abroad.

Internationally designers have been inspired by the form and aesthetics of the brocaded saree and adapted into western silhouettes.

A photograph of Oscar-winning actress and playwright Ruth Gordon wearing American courtier Mainbocher, one of the first western designer to re-envision the saree into fashionable gowns featured in the July 1947 issue of the US Vogue magazine has also been incorporated in the ongoing exhibition.

Works by artist Pushpamala N, fashion designers Asdeen Lilaowalla, Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Rahul Mishra besides archival posters from the Osian's collection, furnishings from Good Earth and garments from online portal LimeRoad among other objects are also in the showcase.

The textile is also seen featured on a bidriware (a metal inlay technique) chair with brocade upholstering signifying royalty.

The Banarasi saree remains a timeless classic. The silk once used to be sourced from Central Asia and China and the zari made with pure and precious metals. But the Banarasi saree has now openly embraced rayon, lurex, and synthetic dyes making it accessible to a wider cross-section of the market. (SH)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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