Much Ado: The Deepika Wedding Sari

Much Ado: The Deepika Wedding Sari

The full story behind Deepika Padukone’s red Kanjeevaram wedding sari and why giving credit where due can sometimes be so blanched

Tomorrow (November 22), on designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s official Instagram account you will see images of Christian Louboutin x Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s first collaboration for designer leather juttis with the signature red soles. The first two pairs of this collaboration were specially created for and worn by actors Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh for their Anand Karaj, one of the two ceremonies the couple observed as part of their wedding rituals at Lake Como recently.

“These red soled juttis are the toe in our ‘head-to-toe’ hashtag about Deepika’s look,” said Sabyasachi in an exclusive conversation with The Voice of Fashion today. This was a candid and introspective chat around aspects of Indian wedding culture, designer-led power brands, the might and reach of Hindi cinema celebrities to carry messages of craft, couture and tradition inside and out of India and the most important: who should get the credit for a woven sari, in this case, the centre of the debate.

Let me first rewind to yesterday when an email from Radharaman K, the founder of Angadi Galleria in Bengaluru popped up in my inbox. He wrote to us about Deepika’s red Kanjeevaram wedding sari (worn by her for her Mangalorean ceremony) and that the actor had bought it from their Bengaluru showroom along with another sari. It was a real zari piece, he wrote, a part of the Advaya label designed by Radharaman and promoted by The House Angadi. A photograph of the sari and Deepika’s signature on the visitor’s book were enclosed. He clarified that her veil was not from their store and that the actor had purchased the sari like any other customer would.


Photo: Instagram/Sabyasachi

Deepika Padukone’s red Kanjeevaram wedding sari was bought from Angadi Galleria, Bengaluru.

I picked up the phone to ask Radharaman if I had his permission to convey this to Sabyasachi, known to be equally obsessive about copyright (being the most copied designer himself). Radharaman did not want a controversy nor did he want to make an accusation. He emphasized they were all a part of the same cultural ecosystem and all he wanted was for the sari to be rightfully credited to their store as a Gandaberunda—two headed bird design—symbolic of Padukone’s home state.

This morning, I sent the details to Sabyasachi who immediately responded by saying that the actor’s mother had given him the sari and knowing that it was a part of their tradition for the bride to wear a sari given by the mother, he accepted it assuming it to be a family-owned piece. The rest—the veil, the trimming of the sari and the styling was done by Sabyasachi.

The world watching these two newly married stars and their stunning wedding turnout would also know that all of the bride’s jewellery was from Sabyasachi’s precious jewellery brand.

Sabyasachi added that once he had verified the details about the red sari, he would credit the store where it came from. Which he did almost immediately on his Instagram handle.

As a journalist who has been in the thick (and the thin) of many such debates around copyright and credit and as a spectator to the rage and outrage around these subjects among consumers, critics and the general public, I must mention the appreciation I feel for the grace and courtesy both Radharaman on the one hand and Sabyasachi on the other chose to navigate through this sensitive issue. There could have been unkind barbs here—but what came out was a broader conversation.

That’s what I want to thread here.


Photo: Instagram/Sabyasachi

Anushka Sharma’s red Banarasi sari had become the topic of social media debate last year.

Last year actor Anushka Sharma’s sindoori red Banarasi sari that she wore for the Delhi reception to celebrate her wedding to Indian skipper Virat Kohli was actually woven as part of specially commissioned 30 saris with designs given by Sabyasachi. This was more than a few months before the Anushka-Virat wedding. A social media debate had then questioned the designer about claiming credit for it. When asked, Sabyasachi says he kept quiet because he believes in protecting the privacy of his clients.

However, what probably needs to be answered by different stakeholders who style, create, curate and sell handloom creations to high profile consumers —whether it is Anushka’s red Banarasi or Deepika’s red Kanjeevaram—whose images catch the attention and curiosity of millions of people is this: whose saris are these that we are fighting about? Are we talking enough about the fascinating creations and traditions of Indian crafts and textiles and how they are a vibrant part of our wedding culture or do we get carried away by the choices of those who front them?

What may also need repeating is that certain design vocabularies, ways of weaving, use of certain colour palettes, the quality of yarn used, and the entire range of manufacturing links that result into a unique, non-stitched garment like a sari are a part of our deeper, older culture. They do not exclusively belong even to a weaver from a cluster because that design existed in some form long before a particular pair of hands wove it. Angadi Silks or Sabyasachi Mukherjee can take credit for design intervention, for the quality of yarn, for introducing tweaks and patterns or for styling a look but they (or anyone else from anywhere) may not be able to overstate this ownership when it comes to traditional handloom products. That’s the nebulousness we must live with and accept in Indian design.

Curiously, neither Sabyasachi nor Radharaman agree entirely. They believe the issue of credit is far more complex. “Innovation is also about bringing perspective and context,” says Sabyasachi explaining why the overall impact is never the sum total of a sari or a lehnga or a veil or pieces of jewellery, it is about making it a story. “Sometimes the biggest creativity is to present tradition unaltered,” he adds. “Some people work as creators, others work as restoration artists,” he says, adding he belongs to the latter kind.

Radharaman argues otherwise. “We put a lot of thought and effort in weaving design and it’s a time consuming process, otherwise any sari would just be plain yardage,” says Radharaman. “Especially when it comes to woven textiles, we should credit all textile designers who design the fabric and innovate on the fabric even though we do not cut and stitch like an apparel designer. I speak for a larger number of designers who don’t publicize their work and don’t get written about.

The only sign off from me is that as long as the fashion and design industry continues to engage with these concerns as well as with the consumers openly, gracefully and without shaming, as Sabyasachi and Radharaman did today, they will only broaden and brighten the discourse.–1784