May 26, 2023
From kimonos to Chiapaneca dresses, it’s not uncommon to see traditional garments on the red carpet of the world’s most prestigious events, but over the past year, the sari seems to have been taking pride of place. This is due not only to the international renown of Indian celebrities like Deepika Padukone, but also to the revamping of this long piece of fabric worn by millions of women in Asia.
From actress Sara Ali Khan to entrepreneur Sudha Reddy, from film critic and curator Meenakshi Shedde to content creator Dolly Singh, the Indian sari was more than ever on show at the Cannes Film Festival, revealing itself in a new light, between tradition and red carpet glamour. This modern revamp could be in the process of turning this traditional garment into the new star of the red carpet. At least, that’s what seems to have been happening over the past few years, with a first noticeable foray at the MET gala, and several appearances at previews, exhibition openings, fashion shows and, as we’ve seen, at Cannes. Interest in the sari is such that an exhibition recently opened in London, focusing on the revival of this traditional garment and its contemporary variations. ‘The Offbeat Sari’ runs until September at London’s Design Museum.
Pride of place on the red carpet
At the 2022 Met Gala, just over a year ago, Natasha Poonawalla made a striking arrival on the steps of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. At the fashion event, held under the theme ‘Gilded Glamour and White Tie,’ the Indian businesswoman stepped out in a sumptuous gold colored sari embellished with a sculptural gold metal corset, perfectly in keeping the evening’s dress code while standing out from the other guests. And this appearance didn’t go unnoticed. In fact, it seems to have paved the way for the traditional garment to take pride of place on the red carpet. A few days later, the sari shone brightly on the French Riviera, as modeled by Deepika Padukone, a jury member at the 75th Cannes Film Festival. The world-famous actress caused quite a stir, and contributed to the revival of this long piece of fabric, worn for thousands of years, while also bringing it to prominence in the West.
And the sari’s rise didn’t stop there, continuing to make red carpet appearances, often showcased by Indian celebrities and public figures, but no longer exclusively. In April, it was Zendaya and Gigi Hadid who caused a sensation in sumptuous saris in Mumbai, India, for the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre gala. The former wore a model studded with stars by Rahul Mishra, while the latter opted for a traditional gold-colored sari embellished with embroidery, sequins and crystals by Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla. A tribute to Indian craftsmanship. The two outfits turned heads, and allowed the sari to shine a little brighter on the international stage.
More than 5 billion views
In addition, India is proving to be a focus for more and more fashion houses, and for good reason: the country, which is gradually opening up to the luxury sector, is now the most populous in the world. This year, for example, Dior chose Mumbai’s Gateway of India as the setting to present Maria Grazia Chiuri‘s pre-Fall 2023 collection to a host of stars. The show celebrated the craftsmanship, skills and rituals of ‘the world’s biggest democracy’, and once again put India in the spotlight on the fashion scene. All of which proved a hit with an audience that seems already won over by the famous traditional garment, which is draped over the female body with a masterly technique.
Today, social networks can testify to the status of the sari, and the public’s infatuation with this typical dress, particularly among younger generations. On TikTok, the #sari hashtag has over 1.3 billion views, while #saree has racked up over four billion views, not to mention all the other derivatives. The terms ‘fashion’, ‘outfits’, ‘aesthetic’, ‘draping’ and even ‘makeup’ are the ones most associated with ‘sari’, offering a host of videos presenting versions as varied as they are traditional, as well as rituals and tips on how to drape them according to custom or region, and different ways of wearing them — traditionally or with a more modern twist. Everything suggests that the sari is well and truly ready to make its mark on the fashion scene, taking over red carpets and catwalks, as well as wardrobes around the world.
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