Celebrating a saree soiree

The Registry of Sarees was started with the belief that textiles traverse history and are frequently symbiotic with the journey of a people

Unless you have been hiding underneath a mouldy saree, you would have heard of the 100-saree pact.

The #100sareepact is now one of the biggest success stories in the Indian social media scene. Back in 2015, Bengaluru-based entrepreneur Ahalya Matthan, whom now most know fondly as Ally, and her friend Anju Maudgal Kadam, started the saree hashtag on a social media platform as a way to encourage more women to dust out their sarees and wear them. No one had expected the idea to catch on as well as it did. The 100-saree pact not only brought out the Ikats and the Chanderis from their hiding but also sparked a new interest in the cultural and the social stories hidden in the soft folds of these handlooms.

For Matthan, the hashtag she had trended on a lark became a sort of life calling. This year, the entrepreneur has started The Registry of Sarees, a research and study centre in Bengaluru. With the aim of documenting and researching Indian handmade textiles. The centre, started along with textile historian and curator Mayank Mansingh Kaul, hopes to bring traditional weavers into the limelight that so eludes them while simultaneously catalogue and archive the many histories of Indian textiles. Excerpts from an interview:

How did the idea for The Registry of Sarees germinate? What is its ultimate purpose?

The Registry of Sarees stemmed from the daily evidence around me that there is so much to learn from sarees as well as the people who simply enjoy wearing them. In a country like ours with such vast differences, we are truly brought together by our common passion for sarees and textiles. T, we recognised this need for a resource and study centre that can serve as a platform to create and archive this precious knowledge and its practitioners’ experiences.

Tell us a bit more about the textiles featured at the centre...

The centre is home to over 500 different sarees and textiles. We like to study them in their entirety – be it their technical aspects, the skills employed in creating them, the designs they showcase, and their geographical history. Sometimes, we just want to enjoy them for what they are. This is by no means a definitive collection; in fact, it is but a drop in the ocean.

Ally (left) and Kadam
Ally (left) and Kadam

 

Could you elaborate on the work the centre is doing with regard to the legacy of khadi?

We set up the centre precisely to enable public access to experiential learning. I believe today the centre is home to one of the most comprehensive and well-documented handwoven collection in the country. This is part of our larger effort to establish the relevance of khadi as an art form and one that is so intricately linked to the country’s history.

To spread awareness, we are hosting learning events that range from design-oriented workshops, weaving and interactions with practitioners to publishing and design-based activities.

You are hoping, in a sense, to connect the threads of culture and textile… How do you propose to bring this aspect into everyday consciousness? In other words, how would you ensure that the love for sarees goes beyond being a mere passing fad?

I strongly believe that sarees are synonymous with living in India. So much of both our daily lives and rituals are linked to textiles. By learning about them, we get a better understanding of our diverse art forms, practices, nature and even ecologies. Essentially, we are celebrating Indian culture through our textiles every single day, and what could be better than that!

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