Sagrika Rai Decodes Banarasi Weaves

by Drishti Mistry

Vivacious, graceful and absolutely, passionately in love with her homeland-that’s Sagrika Rai for you. From opening the doors to her flagship store in 1997 to keeping up with the Gen Z- she takes us through her surreal journey of nurturing the regal Banarasi weave through Warp ‘n Weft. Join us on this joyride…

Reviving inspirations within the Banarasi sketch

“To me, inspiration is not restrictive and bound by specific resources. I draw my creative energies from life, nature, travel, architecture and people. Any element that inspires an organic design is vital to a composite design philosophy of hand weaving.
I indulge my creative instincts. Having spent the first chapter of my life in Varanasi, the epicentre of creativity and artistry seeded the respect for tradition and the confidence of artistic expression. Practising yoga and listening to music keeps my mind clear and enables me to channel my energies towards my work. I like to bring life to my Banarasis by envisioning the Warp ‘n Weft.”

Finding balance between tradition and modernity

“To me tradition is timeless. However, I am not afraid to explore and experiment with the classic look. My mission, of course, has been to appeal to all ages. I want for more women to appreciate the Banarasi artisanal weaves through my brand. I chose to preserve the tradition of hand weaving in Banarasi on the strength of its rich patronage and adapt trends without tempering the ingrained character of Banarasi.”

The evolution of her design

“The scope and spectrum of weaving techniques within the Banarasi school of weave create a plethora of styles that stand the test of time. I have spent two decades working with master craftsmen – and the depth of understanding of techniques and aesthetic balance have only seen greater maturity and finesse over time. I have studied the science of the loom so that I may continue to experiment with weaves, motif placements, yarns and colours, amongst others. I have moved to more emerging and dramatic trends and it is this play that keeps the Warp ‘n Weft designs relevant. Women today are more empowered than ever. Warp ‘n Weft designs have only evolved closer to their heart with much poise and ease and remain their statement of elegance.”

Her signature touches

“The Warp ‘n Weft motto is elegance in weave. This is incredibly meaningful as it is so much more than just a tagline. It is the basis upon which I build all my designs. Elegance always takes centre stage. The fabric should amplify the wearer’s qualities. In doing so, it creates that aura around the wearer that one can only admire. My biggest strength is my vision of derivatives of the classic and the interplay of conventional patterns and colours. I am extremely stringent about the quality we curate at Warp ‘n Weft. We only house natural yarns of silks, no art silk blends and endorse only pure handloom weaves.”

Giving back to the community

“The idea was conceived a few years ago; we formalised it last year. Warp ‘n Weft felicitates the senior craftsmen with cash rewards each year to honour their skills. This is my homage to the weavers of Varanasi, who have been associated with me since the inception of my company. The Weaver’s Fund is formulated to provide for any medical emergencies our senior craftsmen may have and to support the education of the weavers’ children. A fraction of our sales goes towards this fund and I hope that, in the coming years, I am able to give more strength to this mission.”

Her style mantra

I always believe ‘hone your passion and wear your style.’ When making a wardrobe upgrade, try something new since change brings cheer but stay within your comfort zone. Anything that appears as though you are trying too hard to make it work should be avoided. Let your variation in style be an evolution. The best style statement is when you are being simply you. So, if you are traditional in your attitude, come out bold with tradition. If you like drama, underplay it occasionally. Colours contribute greatly to your persona. It must be a flattering balance of texture, colour and silhouette, which should be occasion appropriate.”

Confessions from her closet

“Warp ‘n Weft Banarasis…saris, structured jackets, shift dresses and long maxi dresses custom made from my fine fabrics. My mum’s real zari saris and old jamevar shawls that I treasure. Biker jackets and trench coats, denim dresses and skirts. Always a few pairs of sunglasses for the hot Indian sun. Classic bags and clutches and many open toed high-heeled sandals.”

Looking forward

“We are excited about our collaboration with Nykaa (Fashion) and see this as a progressive step in reaching out to larger audiences digitally. We are hoping to further upsurge our presence internationally by way of bringing in the optimal global aesthetics in our very native art form. We hope to make Banarasi the choice not just limited to occasion wear but the preference for workwear – and transcending into evening wear.”

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