The Art Of Weaving Reversible <i>Sarees</i> - In Conversation With Designer Payal Khandwala

Trust fashion designer Payal Khandwala to give us more reasons to fall in love with sarees. Her latest collection called Gemini introduces an intriguing concept of reversible sarees, wherein the six yards of fabric effortlessly converts into its twin when turned around and draped. Really, you can wear the same sareetwice and look completely different. And that colour blocked in Payal’s signature style, the sarees get a chic modern update. For someone who believes that style is timeless rather than fashion, each of Payal’s collections beautifully transcends that philosophy onto the fabric.

We caught up with the designer to get more scoop on her new collection, her love for sarees and how she goes about redefining the traditional attire.

What made you come up with the concept of reversible sarees?

Payal Khandwala: “Being a saree lover I’ve always wondered how to make the saree even more multipurpose. What if we could wear the same saree twice, with the same drape and same blouse yet somehow make it look different both times? This was the starting point. How does one innovate an Indian essential that is already perfect?”

“I love separates because they can be teamed differently each time they are worn. But I wanted to extend this experience to the saree, so that it can in some way become a little more creative than it already is. So I thought of reversible sarees. It’s designed in a way that it can simply be flipped, so that when rotated it can be worn two ways.”

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(L) Payal Khandwala and (R) Gemini collection

Tell us more about your Gemini collection. What are some of its distinct style elements?

Payal Khandwala: “I am a Gemini, and the term also seemed apt for my concept of reversible sarees. I think its duality lends itself perfectly to my own personality and this twin zodiac. Its unpredictable, versatile and expressive, and allows the wearer freedom and flexibility. The sarees have two contrasting pallus, extended in length for maximum impact. The body of the saree remains the same, whilst it works seamlessly with either end. There are no seams, so this transition has been calculated within the framework of the design, a bit like plotting a six meter long canvas that effortlessly converts into its twin when turned around and draped.”

“The proportions and distribution of the lines and the colour were considered deliberately and planned meticulously keeping in mind that when dressed, a large portion of the saree, and not just the pallu or borders, would change its appearance. They are imagined to be modular, so we can reuse and repeat the same saree twice without it looking the same.”

What are the fabrics you have used for the new collection?

Payal Khandwala: “For Gemini, we have used handwoven fabrics in silk and cotton, in plain and twill weaves. We paired them with pleated satin blouses, top, waistcoats and tunics, in addition to halters and tanks in neoprene.”

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You are a master of colour block. How do you plan the colour palette and make sure to not go wrong with it?

Payal Khandwala: “Thank you, for saying that. Some of my decision-making, when it comes to my palette, is certainly informed intuitively from my years spent as a painter. I’ve been mixing paint since I was a little girl. So I not only have a passion for pigment but also a certain comfort level with colours. That said there are certain things I keep in mind when I play with colour; for instance, the saturation, colour families and neutrals to add relief especially with two or more bold colours. So there are certainly dos and don’ts. Proportion is very important. For example, how much of one colour interacts with another. But then again so much of it is also just the way my eyes are trained to see colour.”

From ‘fierce and feminine sarees‘ to ‘little sarees‘ and ‘reversible sarees‘, you have been redefining the traditional attire like never before. What’s the inspiration behind it all?

Payal Khandwala: “I like to rethink how we wear all our clothes to suit our current lifestyles. I don’t see the point in rehashing old ideas and simply presenting them differently. It’s just not enough. As a woman designing for other women I have a huge advantage in that because I’m making a product that I truly understand. It’s something that empowers women, makes them look and feel good but is also comfortable. It’s not just a beautiful idea packaged to make us spend more money. This drives me to redefine our essentials in a very need-based way. I make clothes that I believe in and that I would want to wear. So as long as there are women out there that understand the overarching philosophy of the brand, it continues to inspire me to reimagine the way we approach our personal style. Because style is timeless rather than fashion, which can be so fleeting.”

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Khadi has been getting a lot of attention lately. Do you plan to experiment with it too?

Payal Khandwala: “We’ve used khadi in the past, and we have just developed a line of handwoven khadi, colour blocked in our signature palette for a line of our pret silhouettes. Khadi has a rich textile story, in addition to being sustainable, and is great to touch and feel.”

What’s next? Give us some scope on your next collection?

Payal Khandwala: “Without giving too much away, our next collection revolves around a group of women that are living life in a context so different from the rest of our world that it’s really quite inspiring. Not only are they fierce and feminine and unapologetic, they are also supported by their entire community, including the men. I hope it can become an example for the change we so desperately need. In that sense they are so relevant to the times we women live in.”

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Fashion tips for brides-to-be while picking their bridal wear

Payal Khandwala: “The most important tip is to pick something that is an extension of your personality, from the colour to the shape. I see too many brides trying to look like a friend or worse, a celebrity. Your wedding day is not a costume party, so it is important that you look and feel like yourself, and that you are comfortable. Don’t over accessorise or spend your life’s savings for an outfit you might never wear again.”

What are the 3 ethnic wear trends you see this year?

Payal Khandwala: “I don’t care much about trends to be honest. They come and go. I hope that what we’ll see this year is incorporating more handwoven textiles that are updated to give our traditional clothes a slightly more modern Indian voice. And I hope that this won’t just be a trend, but a choice that is here to stay.”

Tips to take care of rich silk

Payal Khandwala: “Some silk can be hand washed gently, others are best dry cleaned. Also it helps to store them well, in closets that are aired from time to time. For homes that are close to the sea or exposed to humidity, you can do what I do and hang a sachet of dehumidifying salts or crystals to keep the air dry. This protects precious silks and brocades from moisture.”