Drapes of Change

Drapes  of Change

Anavila Mishra made a rather subtle entry to the world of fashion, but her eponymous brand soon became synonymous with saris, especially those handcrafted with linen fabrics. The no-frills saris  with unmatched borders and geometric patterns in muted tones struck a chord equally with sari enthusiasts and sari skeptics. Not humble by any means—although pre-stitched and jeans sari have made an appearance on the runway—the sari was waiting for an uplift, if not a transformation.

What Anavila did, successfully so, was change the perception. Sari is not just for festivities. It can be a part of our daily wardrobe. She removed all superficial adage that sari carried and freed it, freeing the women in turn. She has taken another leap of faith lately by bringing structured silhouettes into the collection. Her spring/summer 2019 show had something for everyone. The line, inspired by the women of a tribe in Vietnam, included saris with a twist. “My inspiration came from the culturally rich, aesthetically strong and naturally beautiful Sa Pa region of Vietnam. Their lifestyle and inherent love for textile art formed the base of my work,” Anavila says. 

From growing up in Karnal, a sleepy town in Haryana to finding her inspirations from far off destinations, Anavila has evolved as a designer, but remained true to her belief. “Nature had a lasting impression on my aesthetic and design sensibility,” she says talking of her home in Haryana. As a little girl, she dressed her dolls up, made handkerchiefs with her nimble fingers, it was the formal training she received at NIFT Delhi that paved the path to the realm of design.

Right from her first collections she has found inspirations with the indigenous tribes and women who live in saris, literally. This time it was Vietnam. “My extensive travel across the Sa Pa region and spending time with the local artisans had a strong impact on me. In many ways, they are living the life of sustainable fashion we aspire for,” she says. Was it difficult to pick up elements from the tribe and include them in the collection, we ask? “Not even the slightest bit difficult. It actually flew quite naturally. The life of the women of the region is strongly interwoven with the craft itself. From everyday objects to pieces of clothing and everything around them has a strong indigenous design. The strong symbolism and design diversity made it easier to work in this region,” she adds. 

Right from her first collections she has found inspirations with the indigenous tribes and women who live in saris, literally. This time it was Vietnam. “My extensive travel across the Sa Pa region and spending time with the local artisans had a strong impact on me. In many ways, they are living the life of sustainable fashion we aspire for,” she says. Was it difficult to pick up elements from the tribe and include them in the collection, we ask? “Not even the slightest bit difficult. It actually flew quite naturally. The life of the women of the region is strongly interwoven with the craft itself. From everyday objects to pieces of clothing and everything around them has a strong indigenous design. The strong symbolism and design diversity made it easier to work in this region,” she adds. 

Much like her earlier collections, indigo is the key element of this collection too. She has used a lot of pleating and cording. The batik techniques, which are inherent to the Sa Pa women, formed a strong base for her work. The collection is made using natural dyes. She also used single jersey knitted fabric to create the garments adorned with a basket-like embroidery, inspired by the weaves used to craft baskets in the Sa Pa region. This time, too, the spotlight was on the sari. “The sari is a cultural textile with a modern voice. There are multiple beautiful narratives of the same in the past and present. I strongly wanted to create a contemporary voice using this garment for the future,” Anavila says.

For the spring/summer 2019 collection, she experimented a lot with drapes that find its root in the same way that the Sa Pa region and incorporated knitting in their layers. “The baskets are almost impossible to separate. I used these two elements to create the drapes for the ramp which translated into easy, comfortable and fresh looks.”

Anavila likes to work with a theme in mind. The inspiration is translated into a moodboard, which is then broken down into colours, details and patterns. All the saris are handwoven even, most of the garments are made of handwoven textiles. It is almost imperative for her to travel to weaving and printing clusters in the country and abroad, and work closely with the artisans. For the entire design process—making of blocks, shortlisting of patterns, printing, weaving—textiles are her priority, followed by silhouettes and accessories.

Much before fashion picked up pace, Anavila was committed to sustainability. In the last few years, people have come to realise the worth of sustainable fashion, but may be just as a concept, and not as a lifestyle choice. Sustainability is, of course, more than just producing ethical garments. “Sustainability is a way of life. To be conscious every day about your consumption and taking steps to minimise wast. Understanding what goes into making the products we buy is an important part of the process,” Anavila says. 

Chitman Kanwar Ahuja

Chitman Kanwar Ahuja is a feature writer at L'Officiel India. She is a silver jewellery hoarder and an aesthete of all arts. You can find her unraveling new stories day in and day out.