Ashwini Narayan, originally from Mumbai and now settled in Hyderabad, is on her way to create a new perspective for the saree. No more, shall it be branded as a tool for the traditionalists. She has moulded and wrapped in various funky, fresh and free designs to accommodate various age groups and personality types.
Ashwini tells us that if you are a free-spirit, try out lighter cotton and khadi and keep your draping shorter or try the kashta drape (pant-like) or wrap it as a skirt. But if you are looking for a more elegant design, aim for silk and experiment with your folds or pair your drape with a professional jacket! She holds workshops and is immensely active on Instagram and always has a world of knowledge to share. Let’s see what drew her towards saree and how she’s changing the perception about it! Link in bio.
Hello Ashwini, we are so excited to be having this chat with you and love how passionate you are about your craft! Give our audience a brief introduction to what you are up to.
Hello! I’m Ashwini Narayan, a quintessential ‘Mumbai-chi-mulgi’, now living in Hyderabad for the past 3 years. I was born and brought up in Bombay but moved around because of my husband’s work.
I’m a saree stylist/drape artist on a mission to make the saree hip, cool and easy for everyone! I also write about my experiments and experiences with the saree while trying to teach people, especially the younger generation, to wear the saree correctly. I also share the different ways it can be draped and styled and little tips that make saree wearing an easy and happy experience.
Tell us about your first experience wearing a saree and your journey till today?
The first saree was of course when I was a little girl! I remember receiving a ‘Kalpana’ saree on one of my birthdays. They were very popular in Bombay – pre-stitched sarees for little girls. I think mine was a printed floral chiffon kind. Growing up, I wasn’t a big fan of sarees. Somewhere around my 19th or 20th birthday, my parents got me a very pretty green saree for a cousin’s wedding. I was very excited and happy about my first saree until we reached the wedding, then I realised that I had been dressed up for a full-on ‘ladki dikhaane ka program’!
I was so angry. After that, I stayed away from sarees for quite some time. Even for my own wedding, I only bought 2 sarees, because I didn’t have a choice. I would have worn my beloved Levis if I had a choice.
My tryst with the saree happened much later. Only about 5 – 6 years ago. Before that, I just wore saris to weddings, temple visits and festivals. This was also because it was more practical to just borrow Amma’s sarees rather than waste money on clothes I would wear just once or twice. I never imagined I would wear sarees so often. Nor did anyone around me. Both sets of my parents are still in a state of shock.
How have your roots influenced your passions?
Honestly, my upbringing has had zero influence on my inclination towards saree wearing. Sarees and handlooms have opened my eyes to a more sustainable way of living and the more I learn about it, the more I realise that my parents were the perfect example of living a zero-waste life. They recycled and repurposed everything. I keep drawing from their way of life to figure out how I can repurpose pieces from my wardrobe when I am styling sarees or creating different looks. A saree is forever! This is an art form that definitely deserves patronage.
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#tbt . On my mind today is the #shibuyascramble in Tokyo. . . The Shibuya scramble…or the the Shibuya crossing. Rumoured to be the busiest intersection in the world (and definitely in Japan), Shibuya Crossing is like a giant beating heart, sending people in all directions with every pulsing light change. . . . While everyone who visits Tokyo takes super interesting pictures at the scramble, I did something that I knew I wanted to do and had a blast doing. A desi twirl right in the middle of the scramble!!! . Dressed in a bright yellow tiered frock I got made out of 3 sarees !!! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #throwbackthursday #tokyodiaries #wewearculture #iwearhandloom #indiamodern #handwoven #frock #yellow #twirl #shibuya #japan #summerof2019 #iger #everydayphenomenal #sustainablefashion #slowfashion #reducereuserecycle #revival #madeinindia #custommade #mumbaigirlinhyderabadtravels #pixie #mumbaigirlinhyderabad
How do you manage to keep things creative?
I have always tried to keep my writing as authentic as possible and since it is all based on my life and experiences, I never run of ‘content’, so to speak.
How do you know if a style works?
Inspiration for what I do comes from everything that’s happening around me. I enjoy art, music, theatre, being outdoors, talking tech/manga/comics with my boys, anything vintage, and great food. A little bit of each element comes through in my work.
Sometimes, it’s a particular piece or an accessory that sparks my imagination and I build an entire look around it but sometimes, it’s the textile that determines the drape and styling. The best way to know if a style works are to ask yourself, “Do you like what you see in the mirror?”
The two most important things I consider when styling an outfit are:
- Comfort: An outfit has to feel comfortable. If you feel uncomfortable, even the fanciest designer labels can’t make you look great. But, if you feel comfortable, your confidence and ease will come naturally and it will show in your body language.
- Aesthetic appeal: You know yourself best, your style and aesthetic will describe and compliment your personality. While experimenting with clothing is great, a style or drape that presents the best possible version of “YOU” – without changing who you are – is what you need to aim for. You need to feel good and let the clothes simply add to your charm.
Tell us about your workshops and any exciting collaborations you have had so far!
Yes. I conduct workshops for various sized groups where I share all my insider saree secrets. I speak about the very basic fundamentals – like an introduction, the types of sarees, various drapes and how to wear them, the do’s and don’ts, styling for various fabrics and occasions, troubleshooting, caring for sarees and much more.
I have conducted workshops for a fashion design school, corporates and social/charity organisations like Pause for a Cause, The Apollo Foundation and The Ananda Foundation. I also take up personal styling assignments where I create looks based on personal requirements. I have styled and draped sarees for fashion shows and for store launches.
My recent workshop for Taneira Sarees, here in Hyderabad, had about a 100 people. The sweetest guests who attended were these 2 sisters, whose birthdays were close together – they do something different each year to celebrate it as a unit and this time they chose a personal workshop with me. Best compliment ever!
Do you feel like you know everything about Sarees by now? Which are your favourite kinds of drapes?
There are more than 100 documented ways of wearing the saree and India with its many cultures and a kaleidoscope of weaves and textiles – there will always be more to learn. My journey with this beautiful, fluid garment has only started. I try to read as much as possible from whatever material is available but sadly there isn’t much that has been documented in this particular niche.
For some reason, I do seem to love going back to Orissa styled drapes. Generally, I love wearing styles that are hands-free and I am also partial to the short saree and of course my sudden bouts of love for the kashta.
Tell us about your latest work, the Kashta collective.
I was always fascinated by the nine-yard sarees my ajji wore. We would spend the entire summer in Nashik, under the watchful eye of my Ajji who ran the house like a general.
Slowly, as time went by, the amount of time we spent in Nashik decreased because of school then college activities. My connection with my Ajji also took a backseat and I wasn’t able to see her as frequently as I should have.
A couple of years ago, when my interest in various drapes across cultures picked up, I was once again reminded of the kashta my ajji wore. I remembered how active her lifestyle was and the ease with which she went about her day. That’s when I decided to try the drape and to my astonishment, it was the most comfortable and convenient style.
It’s time to bring this uber-chic, super comfortable and practical drape back! All through September, October and November, I am running the #kashtachallenge to encourage more people to try this drape. I have also posted videos on the various ways to wear and style it. The response has been phenomenal and I love how people have taken to it.
#letsbringthekashtaback and #slingitlikeitshot are the tags I have created for this series.
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A lot of you have already tried both the previous drapes and are doing really beautifully, it's time to up the ante'. Here's a drape from Orissa, very warrior like and can be dressed up or down very easily!! My fave way to wear it is with a long jacket. Give it try, wear it, post it, tag me. And spread the #kashta love. ❤ #letsbringthekashtaback #slingitlikeitshot #kashtachallenge
The saree is a fluid garment that takes on the personality of the wearer. There are myriad ways of wearing it. Find the style that works for you and give the saree a try for it ain’t rocket science!
To keep up with more of Ashwini’s exciting looks, follow her on Instagram!
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