He is an engineer by education and a textile designer by default. For K Radharaman of Advaya by the House of Angadi, embellishing his 600-year-old family legacy by contemporising weaves, is evocative of his deep-seated passion for Indian textiles and cultural heritage.
Angadi Silks, his labour of love, creates virtual heirlooms for royalty, heads of state, celebrities, textile connoisseurs—all under Radharaman’s technical and aesthetic expertise. He explains, “The variety of techniques and the depth of India’s textile traditions are simply unmatched. I have travelled aplenty and worked with textile clusters of virtually every state in the country and am still amazed by how much there is still left to discover. With such a powerful canvas comes creative liberty with responsibility. Our ancient Vedas declare that the universe is an endless fabric woven by god. Hence, conceiving a design is a spiritually uplifting experience for me: I feel the power of a textile designer to preserve, conserve and modernise something that is such a fundamental aspect of human life, it is awe inspiring.”
K Radharaman launched Advaya by the House of Angadi, to innovate aesthetically on traditional looms and create masterpieces by master weavers. “Design can be a torturous process. Sometimes, you have no inspiration for days on end and then the thoughts come in a flood, at which time I can forget to sleep or eat. Some designs are driven by the motif, that is the visual graphic that needs to be woven, like the Gandberunda (two-headed bird, the mythological figure representative of the state of Karnataka) sari worn by Deepika Padukone for her wedding. Some designs are distinct because of the yarn and the construction—like the linen-blended kanjeevaram,” he says.
Essentially the most vital factor that goes into the making of the design are the yarns and the weaves. The warp, being the series of threads or yarn that run along the length of a sari, with the weft running perpendicular to the warp. “It is the interlacing of warp and weft that creates the fabric. A simple yet magical process with endless permutations and combinations,” he explains.
A fact appreciated by Deepika as she wore Advaya’s pure zari kanjeevaram brocade sari for her wedding. “The body design was the Gandberunda,” says K Radharaman. The two-headed bird represents prosperity and wisdom, translating into material and spiritual wealth, a symbolic choice by the bride. Besides this one, Deepika also draped a heritage Advaya tissue brocade sari for one of her receptions.
The turning point in Advaya tales came with the creation of the linen kanjeevaram in 2010. “The use of linen in any handloom genre in India was very limited,” says K Radharaman. “When I developed the prototype on a sample loom in our studio, the result was magical. But when I asked my master weaver to reproduce it in the form of a production sample, he flatly refused. He could not conceive of changing the basic nature of a kanjeevaram. I offered to weave it myself, to prove that it could be done. Finally, he agreed to do it. I had to break down the entire process of weaving the fabric into simple steps and it was a truly fulfilling experience.” Successive innovations in design, technique and fabric have cemented the brand over the years but Radharaman thinks he has just begun.
His lack of training in a design school works beautifully to his advantage, he believes, as he challenges conventional techniques of doing something. There are certain iconic weaves and motifs born of these processes that have formed the Advaya signature—the linen-blended kanjeevaram, the first ever in the world, and the kadhi kanjeevaram. “I love reinterpreting traditional forms that are part of the design vocabulary of a genre. My favourites are mythological forms and traditional designs clubbed together as the Kalakshetra designs."
How does the 600-year-old heritage of House of Angadi deal with the more contemporary style of Advaya? Rajaraman replies with signature honesty, “I belong to the Padmasaliya weaving community. We literally speak the language of the weavers. I have often felt that the creative process is intuitive and the sense of aesthetics that I impart to my designs is a gift from my forefathers.”
Meanwhile, he is working consistently towards establishing national and international presence, hoping to build a brand that is respected and loved for what it represents. “I am trying to build something that will outlive me,” he says. “So hopefully, we would have laid the foundation for this in the next couple of years.”