LFW x FDCI: Anavila Returns, Wearing Saris on Her Sleeve

Anavila’s ‘Dabu’ saris carried a world of beautiful possibilities in floral-geometric-diaphanous-translucent vocabulary. Freedom from excessive knotting and twisting could have eased the narrative 


Day One (March 9) of Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) in partnership with Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) at Mumbai’s Jio World Gardens was also the Sustainable Fashion Day, now a seasonally consistent calendar block.

The first show in this category was by Anavila. The designer synonymous with artisanal linen saris—fluid in drape, intelligent (oh yes, saris can look intelligent) and restrained in visual communication—had been noticeably absent from the catwalk for the last few seasons. Her new, saris-only show titled ‘Dabu’ paid homage, according to the collection note, to the mud-resistant hand-block printing technique of Rajasthan. The models came barefoot, a warm, nostalgic throwback to the designer’s first show in 2014, also at LFW when the Indian fashion ramp had seen her linen sari magic for the first time.


Anavila’s saris-only show titled ‘Dabu’ paid homage, according to the collection note, to the eponymous hand-block printing technique of Rajasthan.

The Dabu saris wore the gentle beauty of natural dyes in ivory, ochre, sage, green, indigo, madder, kashish and black. There was a shade of carrot orange, quite irresistible. Sophisticated, thoughtfully rendered with a  clever use of dulled or sharpened colours, in geometric or floral motifs, proportionally balanced in the elements they fused together, it was like a conversation between the opaque, the diaphanous and the translucent. Where fabrics of different intensities, weights and yarns constructed a language of handwoven repertoire. In sync with the contemporary Indian fashion mindset which nods to all things glocal but values a straightforward Indian sensibility above all else in design. The fact that Anavila only brought saris to the ramp, without any ready-to-wear garments deserves notice as much of the current fashion-retail market is category divergent—designers and fashion houses want to be available for everything from wedding wear to a holiday in California or a summit at Davos. The clarity of putting out a collection that was speaking only one thing at a time is admirable.


Model Sonalika Sahay walking for Anavila.

It was the styling of the saris however that led to questions. The overall look of the show (with well-represented, diverse cast of models) urged memories of ancient mythological dramas. Hair was pulled back and knotted in double buns or coiled plaits on the side. Saris too were draped with multiple knots, twists and potli-like mounds made from the fabric. The collection note did hint at referencing ways of the past when the six yards would be used to hold coins, herbs, or other tiny precious items. In a day and age where the drama of the catwalk must leave some space to communicate ease of wearing, especially in the case of the sari whose value as identity is unparalleled but whose functionality has become a challenge for urban and semi-urban women, the draping style of Anavila’s Dabu saris deserved a rethink. The knots and twists were too many, limiting visual fluidity. Considering a mix of the sari that must run to catch a bus, the sari sitting on the floor in awe of a classical musical performance, a sari at a business conference, and then adding the mythological multi-faceted sari could have been a bigger win.


Anavila, taking a bow after the show.

Perhaps the show could have been shortened, given that the ramp had textiles hung as pieces of art and most looks on models combined two or more elements or fabrics. Showing fewer saris would have made it sharper.