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Of Sarees and Sustainable Living — Interview with Isha Priya Singh

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Isha Priya Singh on Instagram

 

It’s timeless, it’s versatile—the traditional six yards are undoubtedly a quintessential item in every Indian woman’s wardrobe. At LIVA, we recognize that, and so we have reimagined the classic Indian saree to make it ideal for the modern-day woman. Emanating a beautiful sheen, sarees made of the fluid LIVA fabric are super soft on the skin and provide a flattering drape, giving you an effortless flow.

There’s no denying the elegance a saree exudes, and its versatility lets you adapt it to fit any occasion on your calendar. Think a designer embroidered saree for a wedding function, a traditional bandhani drape for a literature festival, an elegant Banarasi silk saree in a pastel hue for a friend’s housewarming party…the list is endless.

The best part? A saree’s longevity makes it the epitome of sustainable fashion. Take it from Indian fashion blogger Isha Priya Singh, the creative brain behind @desidrapes on Instagram, whose deep affinity for the six yards led her to adopt it into her everyday life. “The saree is fluid, versatile, and ageless. These qualities make it inherently sustainable. It has survived millennia of change and still remains relevant—this itself is a proof of its sustainability,” she says.

 

Early Beginnings: A Love Affair with Sarees

Isha’s tryst with sarees began when she was around eight years old. “I wore a saree for Basant Panchami, the festival that marks the onset of Indian spring. It was a kids’ saree, a Laal-Paad (featuring a traditional red border) with a yellow body, from Kolkata,” she reminisces.

Her mother, of course, played a major role in inspiring her. “My mother has influenced every sphere of my life, including my interest in sarees. But she has never been a saree collector.” Interestingly, the hand-me-downs in Isha’s closet come from her best friend’s mother. “She passed on some of her sarees to me when she saw me wearing sarees regularly,” Isha fondly remembers.

 

 

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बसन्त-बहार जैसा कुछ (Bahaar jaisa kuchch) Something like Spring Post 2 of 3 . Hand-painted chanderi saree : @chowdhrain Poth(पोत) beads neckpiece : Gift from the lovely @sareesisterhood . . Doston! As I mentioned in my previous post, Dubai is a desert city. Climatically speaking, it cannot experience a spring. However, over the years, the authorities here have worked hard to make it a green place. November-March, flowering shrubs like Petunias (and some Marigolds) are planted all over the city. So this is, somewhat, the season of flowers in Dubai. I am trying to make the most of this weather by spending time outdoors wearing dreamy, floral clothes. . My gossamer and ethereal Chanderi is handwoven and handpainted, it even looks inspired by Petunias. @chowdhrain is my go-to source for Chanderi sarees because their sarees come with a Handloom Mark. Even without a Handloom Mark one can recognize a handloom saree, simply by taking a closer look at it. Irregularities like knotted threads in the body, uneven thickness of the golden border and the gossamer texture are characteristics that are missing in a powerloom saree. . I teamed this hand-painted beauty with a Poth necklace, gifted by the affectionate and magnanimous Rupali ji @sareesisterhood. This combination of hand-painted saree with Poth reminded me of my gorgeous art teacher Mrs. Kapoor @rashukap. She often wore sarees painted by her, with such necklaces, to school. Before every art class I used to wait with baited breath to see how she was dressed that day. Our teachers influence and inspire us in more ways than they realize. They are our first role models and fashion icons. This look is a tribute to one of my earliest saree icons ? . . Please swipe to see a close-up of the hand-painted flowers. . . #iwearhandloom #chanderisaree #chanderi #handpaintedsaree #handwoven #textilesofindia #weavesofindia #floral

A post shared by Isha P. Singh (@desidrapes) on

 

The saree enthusiast that she is, Isha enjoys collecting pieces that are akin to works of art. She started her collection with a mercerised cotton saree. “The first saree that I bought with my own earnings was a Nuapatna Kargil saree from an Odisha handloom store. I still have that saree and wear it often!”

 

On Building a Sustainable Collection

“It is always more desirable to be a connoisseur rather than a mere hoarder of sarees,” says Isha, and we couldn’t agree more. If you are looking to build a sustainable wardrobe, you have to think beyond a wardrobe full of designer embroidered sarees that are only worn on special occasions. “True collectors invest in valuable pieces; they don’t buy for the sake of increasing numbers. One must collect sarees that are beautiful not just in their appearance but also in their creation process,” advises Isha. Shopping from sustainable brands would mean you are buying something that looks good and feels good!

 

 

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‘लन्दन के रंगों में रंगें पर अपना अन्दाज़ क्यों छोड़ें?’ (Please keep swiping for the translation and transliteration) . लाल-नीला-सफ़ेद ‘यूनियन जैक’ के रंग हैं पर मैंने उन्हें पोचमपल्ली इकत के रूप में पहना। इंग्लिस्तान के अज़ीम शहर लन्दन में मुझे 6 बातें अच्छी लगीं : . . 1. अपनी ऐतिहासिक और सांस्कृतिक धरोहर, अदब-ओ-तहज़ीब के विरसे को, संजोय रखने की कामयाब कोशिश। चाहे वो इमारतें हों, कलाकृतियाँ या रस्म-ओ-रवायतें। लन्दन उन्हें सदियों से सहेजे हुए है। . . 2. शहर को फूलों से सजाने का चलन। जगह-जगह, ख़ास तौर से हर पब/टैवर्न(Pub/Tavern) पर, असली मौसमी फूलों की डलिया सजी रहती हैं। जो शहर में धूप की कमी को रंग और ताज़गी से पूरा करती हैं। . . 3. शहरियों में साइकिल चलाने की चाह। हर तबक़े के लोग साइकिल से चलते दिखे, सिर्फ़ ग़रीब और मजबूर नहीं। साइकिलें यहाँ किराए पर भी मिलती हैं। . . 4. शहर के चैराहों, बाज़रों, ट्यूब स्टेशनों में हरदम बजता ‘लाइव’ संगीत, जैसे शहर में भी फ़िल्मों की तरह बैकग्राउण्ड म्यूज़िक हो! कोई फ़नकार पैसे की चाह में गाता-बजाता है तो कोई बस वाहवाही की चाह में। . . 5. लन्दन-वासियों में रंगमंच के प्रति प्रेम! शहर का फलता-फूलता थियटर-सीन देखकर मेरा दिल झूम उठा। थियटर की परम्परा यहाँ कई सदियों से चल रही है। अगली पोस्ट ‘वेस्ट-एण्ड थियटर’ पर। . . 6. इतने सारे और बड़े म्यूज़ियम, उनमें मुफ़्त एंट्री। मेरा सबसे ज़्यादा वक़्त म्यूज़ियमों में बीता, ख़ास तौर से विक्टोरिया&एल्बर्ट में। कॉलेज में पढ़ी फ़ैशन और ज्वेलरी के इतिहास की हर किताब में बस यहीं पर रखे नमूनों की तस्वीरे हुआ करती थीं। आख़िरकार ख़ुद उन्हें देखने का मौका मिला। लखनऊ से लाया गया भी काफ़ी कुछ है V&A के कलेक्शन में। (स्वाइप करके आप V&A की झलकियाँ देख सकते हैं) . . शहर में क्या नहीं अच्छा लगा ये बताकर क्यों बेवजह बहस छेड़ूँ। हर शहर की समस्याएँ होती हैं लन्दन की भी हैं। लन्दन एक प्रभावशाली महानगर है पर मैं चाह कर भी इस बात को नज़रन्दाज़ नहीं कर सकती कि ये शहर मेरे मुल्क के कई शहरों को दबा कर अज़ीम बना। मेरे देश की दौलत से बनी यहाँ की शाही इमारतें। मेरे दिल में न नफ़रत है न नाराज़गी पर अपने पुरखों से वसूले गए लगान से बने इन नज़ारों की चकाचौंध में मैं अंधी भी नहीं हो सकती। शहर-ए-लन्दन को सलाम करूँगी पर इज़्ज़त और प्यार से। कॉलनियल मानसिकता से मिले अहसास-ए-कमतरी के बोझ से झुक कर नहीं, जिसे अबतक कुछ देसी ढो रहे हैं। . Saree : @southside_4u . . . . #desidrapesinengland #desidrapestravels #desifashion #hindifashionblog

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“A product becomes truly beautiful when it is produced without harming the environment and its makers are a happy, well-paid and well-treated lot. That’s why it is important to research before investing in fabric, textile craft, brand, or designer,” says Isha.

 

Choosing Flattering Drapes

If you are honest in your approach to eco-friendly fashion, you are probably a savvy DIY maestro who is always thinking of ways to upcycle used fabric. Not there yet? Take notes from Isha who has consciously adopted a sustainable lifestyle herself: “Six yards of any drapeable textile can become a saree. These six yards can be draped in innumerable ways, and this fluidity is what makes the saree versatile,” she says.

Not long ago, we shared with you five innovative ways to drape a saree, conceptualized by Nikaytaa, founder of The Indian Draping Co. So, if you are looking to adorn the latest simple saree you purchased in a more contemporary style, you know where to head.

For summer, Isha recommends opting for lightweight fabrics. “Cotton is the best fabric for Indian summer but unless grown organically, it is not sustainable,” she says. It is, after all, a water-intensive crop.

 

 

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Aadab Doston, Namaste! I was supposed to complete all my pending collaborations in January itself but it took me another month. Finally, it is all done and Desi Drapes is now a non-commercial account. I’ve declined new barter offers for reasons I explained in my post dated 31st Dec ’19. I just have a few more things to share and requests to make : 1. I’ve invested in an organic cotton saree from @ethicus and a Sudhakadi saree from @punarjeevana. I bought them at @mslf2020. I will shop for nothing else in 2020 and repeat both the sarees at least 10 times each, this year itself. 2. In 2019 I invested in 2 outfits, a pair of shoes and some Afghan trinkets. Through barter, I received 36 pieces of clothing, 2 bags, 2 pair of shoes and a few trinkets. Keeping this record made me realize that this needs to stop. Before this, my acquisition and purchases were mindless. 3. If you are a friend who is going to meet me sometime in the near or far future, please don’t bring a gift. No matter how thoughtful! If you want to give me something, just plant a tree somewhere. 4. Heartfelt gratitude towards all brands who collaborated with me in this journey of nearly three years. I hope I was able to do justice to your product and our association was beneficial for you. In case it wasn’t, I’d like to apologize. 5. If you are a business I promised to collaborate with but didn’t keep it, please accept my apology. I am sure you will find better people to promote your work. 6. I am not going private just yet but it will happen soon. Please understand that private and public are profile setting options. If one switches from public to private or vice versa it only affects their future followers not the existing ones. 7. I’ve started writing for a few websites. I’ll share the links to those articles and some wordpress blogposts, once in a while, only in my insta-stories. If you have any writing assignments for me, please feel free to DM. 8. If you’d like me to have a talk in your city, please find me a sponsor. Closing message : Ki dam da bharosa yaar, dam aave na aave! Chhad jhagde te kariye pyaar! Dam aave na aave! (Explained in comments) Phir milenge! Khayal rakhiye ?

A post shared by Isha P. Singh (@desidrapes) on

 

If you are looking to adopt an eco-conscious lifestyle that embraces your sartorial choices, Isha suggests using what you already have to the fullest. “Borrow, rent, or swap wherever possible, and give preference to purchasing pre-loved or second-hand clothing. When buying new clothes, choose eco-conscious and ethically produced options over fast fashion.”

So, how are you going to build your sustainable collection of sarees? Explore LIVA’s website featuring a covetable collection of fashion sarees online, available at our partner brands Shoppers Stop, Pantaloons, Rust Orange, Razaaá, and more. Go on, find your new favourite LIVA saree today and tell us your saree saga.


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