Weaving a niche

Dare to wear

Weaving a niche

Anuradha Ramam is a designer with a difference. Her passion for craft and her keen desire to revive traditional weaves and prints have led her to create a range of classic yet chic apparels, writes Sudha Jain.

Her vivacity and laughter rings in my ears much after my interaction with her. It’s this joy of living that reflects in Anuradha Ramam’s designs too. Her creation bathed in splashes of bold and bright colours, woven together to make a cohesive whole, makes one stand up and take notice. Wear her creation, and chances are you will be noticed and your aesthetic sense appreciated!

“Over the top, flamboyancy and brightness define me,” says designer Anuradha Ramam. “Everything I do, I invest my heart and soul. My designs find expression in what I believe. I see the world as a happy, lively place and so, anything dull and monotonous has no place in the saris and clothes that I design.”

Her choices in life have been defined by her passion too! A Master’s degree in English Literature saw her as a teacher for two years before her love for colours and designs beckoned her into the world of fabrics and weaves. “Painting has always been my passion. It is this love that I transported to a graph one fine day and shared them with weavers, who were more than willing to give my designs a definite shape. My first loom got started, and the designs converted into beautiful reality.”

Since then she has also been actively involved with the weavers of West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, helping more than 700 weavers live a better life. “Giving sustenance to people behind the scene and believing in what they do is very important. Weaving is a dying art and there is an urgency to revive this. The next generation of weavers will carry on the weaving tradition only if we give them incentives. Inherent part of my work is supporting women weavers to make them financially independent. Continuous flow of work for them is essential as their livelihood depends on it.”

Her aesthetics was given an added boost when she married and settled in Andhra Pradesh for some time where she was exposed to Telia Rumal, which is “essentially Ikat, but its tying and dyeing techniques are with oil”. She explains, “Ikat, traditionally, has three to four primary colours, but adventurous that I am, I played with lime green, hot pink, blood red, adding a different dimension to the fabric.” Her work has no boundaries, giving us surprising combinations of colours and weaves. You may see a Kutch border sitting prettily on an Ikat sari or a kantha weave with mirror work! Her Ikat halter necks, skirts and palazzos seamlessly fit in with the saris, challenging the traditional as it were.

In tune

Bringing her path-breaking designs to the youth, enticing them to wear the traditional-gone-contemporary clothes is challenging as well as exciting for her. With young girls veering more and more towards denim culture, getting them to wear a sari is a challenge she has taken upon herself. “I ask them to break the barriers and change their mindset towards our sari.” “Why can’t they wear saris with boots and T-shirts in their own way?”
she questions. “The more impediments we give them, the more they will move away from our traditional wear. So, I think from their perspective and give them what they want. I encourage them to find acceptance in their saris, with their jholas and boot.” Her saris in silk and cotton are not stiff and can be easily draped and maintained. More reason for them to embrace them. But she is possessive about her work and wants them to be owned by people who appreciate and understand the hard work that goes into creating a masterpiece.

And masterpieces, they are! Her designs, steeped in established fabrics, have elements that are pleasantly modern. Geometrical blocks, peacock patterns, fish motifs, amalgam of different traditional crafts and shocking colours are her design mainstay. “I keep on adding to a garment till I ask myself: is it enough? Does it please me? I use appliqués, patches and variety. I take risks, want my designs to jump and shine,” she rings in with that laughter. She calls her work “bold yet balanced”.

Patronage

With clients like Kirron Kher, theatre personality Lillette Dubey and Shabana Azmi, she is in a good place and at peace, for her dream of doing something for the weavers is relentless and continuous. And she is undeterred by net fabrics and bling that are ruling the roost in fashion circles. She says, “To each his own. We have to be with the world. Handlooms alone cannot make your wardrobe. I try to create and balance. I add bling too, but they are understated and do not overpower my designs.”

Denim sari with raw silk  anyone?

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