Her name is synonymous with championing the Banarasi weave. Her modish, contemporary streak has always brought forward stylish renditions in threads. And now she’s done it again. Fashion designer Payal Khandwala has created her latest surprise in the form of reversible saris in her new collection—Gemini. Yes, now you can actually wear the same sari twice—with each side being different from the other.
“For me, the biggest challenge was how to find the right yarn, twist, weave and wash to give the sari the right weight, body, sheen, feel, softness and drape,” she explains, the passion for her work dancing in her eyes.
“The design part is where I get to play because it is a blank canvas where happy accidents are always welcome. That was the easy part, akin to designing a six-metre-long canvas. I made plenty of sketches, transferred them to the computer and several printouts later, the results made the entire team very happy,” enthuses Khandwala.
The results are, indeed, stunning—a collection of spectacular handwoven saris in mulberry silk and cotton, in plain and twill weaves. The palette stands ablaze in hues of rich scarlet, spicy citrine, mesmerising sapphire, soothing chartreuse, pounded coffee, sooty charcoal and deep magenta to fleeting silver.
Did the reversible nature of the garment restrict the palette to fewer colours? “No, not at all. As long the colours work within the canvas of the sari, you can play with hues that are saturated, neutral or a combination of both,” Khandwala explains. “The key is to control how much of each colour is used and in what proportion. So long as the body of the sari works with the pallus at either end, there are no restrictions.”
Lines dominate all the eight saris in this collection. “I believe lines are great way to create rhythm and separation,” she says. “Bands of colour of varying thicknesses, vibrate giving the viewer the illusion of a third colour. A bit like what the impressionists did with their paintings. It is a timeless and minimal way to play with colour, and the permutations and combinations are endless.”
So, what are the key differentiators compared to her earlier renditions? “The sari does not just have two different pallus. In this case, the pallus are extended to the front when worn so that the largest part of the sari looks different when rotated. The part that stays constant (the body) is narrow and therefore mostly concealed in the pleats. But because the design is seamless, it empathises what sets apart the two ends. Also the sari isn’t worn inside out, it’s simply rotated so that the right side always faces up,” she explains at length. Call it Khandwala’s contribution to sustainable fashion.
Prod her about her favourite and she reveals her pick: “For now, my favourite is the silver, citrine and sapphire sari. I love the different weights of the lines and the distribution of colour. But I have to admit, I like all other Geminis that will change quickly with my mood,” she says with a laugh. But then is it possible to create a reversible sari in the Banarasi weave? “Yes, especially if the motifs are not one directional. If the repeat allows or if the design is abstract they can absolutely be created in brocade. The challenge would be how to change the colour enough to separate the two ends, seamlessly,” she says, as if mentally rustling up a design on that front.
The chic convertibles are priced in the range of rs 18,000 to 25,000. And in keeping with her zodiac sign, Gemini, they are as unpredictable, versatile and expressive.