In an Indian “fashion revolution,” the sari is being recreated for the modern day, with about 60 groundbreaking specimens set to go on display at a new exhibition in London.
According to curator Priya Khanchandani, the sari has seen the most rapid shift in its 5,000-year history over the last decade.
The London exhibition highlights the garment’s 21st-century resurgence, from sari fashions worn by young women on their way to work in Delhi and Mumbai to the stunning creation that was the first sari to grace New York’s iconic Met Gala.
Khanchandani says she first noticed a revival in 2015, when she met some of the designers in Delhi who were reinventing the sari, which was historically a single long length of unstitched silk draped over the body.
“I saw the sari being revived as an everyday garment in a way that was very fashionable. They were being worn by younger women than I knew before,” she told AFP ahead of the show, The Offbeat Sari, which opens at the Design Museum on Friday.
“They were often quite intellectual women, writers and artists… wearing them in ways that I didn’t expect,” she said.
She had always thought of saris as a special occasion or wedding outfit, but she soon witnessed them being reimagined as everyday clothes, especially when paired with T-shirts and sneakers.
The emergence of mass consumerism and social media in India, combined with the rise of the country’s urban middle class, has accelerated the sari’s modernization, according to Khanchandani.
“The influence of digital media which has a really significant reach in India, particularly among young people, allowed trends to spread and I think allowed the way that saris were being worn to become a grassroots movement,” she added.