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#MakeInIndia: Benarasi weaves 101

sabyasachi 2

Sabyasachi Mukherjee

If you’re a voracious follower of fashion news, you already know that big changes are afoot in the Indian fashion industry. With the #MakeInIndia initiative fast gaining steam, Indian heritage is the buzzword. An increasing number of designers are joining forces with craftsmen and weavers to bring the beauty of Indian weaves to the fore.

Age-old favourite, the Benarasi weave, is one such craft. The luxurious and opulent Benarasi brocade, which was once a hallmark of Indian art, had fallen into dusty abandon. But not anymore. With the weave capturing everyone’s sartorial imagination, it only makes sense to make closet space for it. But not before a quick master class on what makes this textile so special. As always, we have you covered!

What is Benarasi?

manish malhotra

Manish Malhotra

In plain speak, it is brocade work with silk and gold threads and dates back to the first signs of civilisation in India. In the 14th century, Mughals (who patronised art in Varanasi) met with an influx of silk weavers from Gujarat, giving rise to this opulent and rich combination of silk weaves and brocade work. This special textile received the name ‘Benarasi’ when Ralph Fitch, a merchant visiting Varanasi’s textile trade centres in the 16th century, chronicled the textile art in this name.

What makes it unique?

anita dongre

Anita Dongre

Benarasi weaves are even mentioned in the Mahabharata and Buddhist scriptures! They’re as timeless as the country and is a product that tells the tale of unique cultural diversity. Widely favoured by Indian royalty, its magnificent embroidery makes it a keeper.  Benarasi saris are crafted from real gold and silver threads and can take as long as a year to make.

Who are the designers championing it?

Want to buy a Benarasi brocade piece pronto? Turn to one of the many Indian designers who are heavily championing it. Manish Malhotra’s ‘Regal Threads’ collection brings the fabric back in vogue whereas Sabyasachi’s heritage collection glorifies the weave too. Payal Khandwala has become synonymous with contemporary cuts in this traditional fabric. Shaina NC is helping the fabric make a comeback too by working with the likes of Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla, Ritu Kumar, Varun Bahl, Anita Dongre and Shruti Sancheti. Payal Singhal, Ridhima Bhasin, Ekaya, Sanjay Garg and Rahul Mishra are also known to favour the fabric.

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Ekaya

How can one style Benarasi in a contemporary manner?

Looking to give your Benarasi outfits present-day relevance? Here are some quick styling tips.

payal khandwala

Payal Khandwala

  • Style Benarasi culottes with a white shirt for a night out. Add a polki necklace to the mix if you want to wear the look for a wedding party.
  • Wear a Benarasi maxi skirt with a cape top or off shoulder blouse for a unique spin.
  • Choose to wear Benarasi for your big day like the princesses of yore!
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L to R: Chhavvi Aggarwal, Ekaya, Ridhima Bhasin

Shop Benarasi winners on aashniandco.com here.