India’s first luxury multi-brand store, Ensemble is really where it all began. Their passion for marrying India’s rich heritage of incredible workmanship with an elegant contemporary aesthetic has truly led to them being the pioneers of luxury retail in India for over 25 years now. As you must have heard, they recently opened their fab new store at Khan Market in Delhi and I for one have been extremely pumped about it. Unlike their palatial previous stores, this one is a cosy little boutique situated right at the entrance of Delhi’s hippest market, housing some of my favorite contemporary designers. Nobody throws light on “India Modern” like the good folks at Ensemble. So when they asked me to curate some looks from the store and style them on myself, I just knew the first one had to be a sari with a modern twist. I was obviously spoilt for choice; from Anavila’s linens to Anamika Khanna’s draped sarees to Akaaro’s handwoven silks, there is plenty to choose from at the Khan store. I found myself particularly attracted to this handwoven metallic houndstooth pattern saree by Hemang Agrawal – six yards of pure grace. I have to admit I have developed a soft corner for weaves and textiles over the last couple of years, and while Benarasi weaves are all about bold patterns in vibrant hues, Hemang’s creations seemed anything but. I couldn’t help but fall for his procedure oriented approach that led to the creation of this modern geometric pattern in a traditional weave – which I hear isn’t easy to achieve. A little online research tells me that the new-age textile designer uses silver/gold based metallic yarn for the body warp, body weft as well as the extra warp/weft which makes the design. Sheer brilliance!
Speaking of sarees, I can’t emphasize enough how much I love playing with drapes. While at times I hunt for offbeat sari draping tutorials online, other times I just start with feeling the fabric, understanding its flow and draping it accordingly on myself. This was one of those organic moments where I just followed the flow and hence it felt even more beautiful and naturally more effortless. The texture of this fabric and the way it demanded to be handled kind of took me back to my college days. Being a product design student, I loved experimenting with new materials. While working on my final year major project, I stumbled upon the most intricate, pliable sheet of super-thin stainless steel mesh and ended up using that in a uniquely folded and draped pattern as a decorative structure for my chandelier design. Had a fairly similar experience while draping this saree (probably owing to the silver yarn used to weave it), that gave me a sudden burst of nostalgia while also filling me up with a strange urge to use some form of light play while photographing the outfit. The strange ways of inspiration. Luckily for me, the idea of delving in smoke and light photography sounded equally appealing to Tarun, who was to shoot this look of mine. A room full of smoke, a few color gels here and some smoke bombs there and voila, we got the shots within an hour or two. A muted, metallic look surrounded by bright bursts of smokey color made for an interesting composition – one that was very much in sync with my mood.
Now while there are several ways of draping a sari, there are also endless kinds of blouses you can team it with. As much as I love a conventional sari blouse, these opportunities to experiment really get my creative juices flowing. I chose an ultra-flattering embellished off-shoulder top by Misha Lakhani, available at Ensemble. Cut from organza and lined with georgette, the top features chord embroidery dotted with pearls and scalloped edges. There was something I loved about how stark the contrast was between the heavy metal mannish houndstooth pattern and a dainty, delicate, feminine organza.
To finish my ethereal yet edgy look, I added the Paradise Dew Pearl Cluster Earrings and the Andel Dust Ring by Isharya, available at Ensemble again.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this look in the comments section below.
Photographed by Tarun Chawla