Though his family has been in the business of textiles for over 600 years, 38-year-old K Radharaman’s label Advaya from The House of Angadi was in the spotlight when Deepika Padukone chose the label for her wedding reception. Radharaman, a Cornell University graduate, reveals the story behind the saris and the legacy of Angadi. Excerpts…
What is the story behind the weaves of Deepika Padukone’s saris?
The Gandaberunda design that was used in her Mangaluru wedding sari is the emblem of Karnataka, Deepika’s home State. Gandaberunda is a mythical two-headed bird and part of Indian scripture. The two heads represent wisdom and prosperity. The symbolic design makes it worthy of special occasions. Weaving the sari took approximately 45 days. The gold sari that she wore for the Bengaluru reception, with real gold zari took nearly 60 days.
How important is a celebrity patronage?
The weft and warp is itself symbolic of innovations bound by humility. Thanks to Deepika’s choice, people across the globe applauded us for the creative weave. We are delighted with people’s respect for being the way we are. Patronage by prominent influencers such as film personalities obviously has the power to create trends overnight. However, no trend can be sustained without serious design innovation.
Through her choices Deepika has turned the spotlight on Kanjeevaram…
The design language of a Kanjivaram sari is directly inspired by temple architecture. Motifs such as the yaali, the temple border and the Gandaberunda, are steeped in tradition. The ancient Dravidian kingdoms under whose rule the genre flourished, reflected a sophistication in their material and technique. Plied silk means more silk by weight per square inch of the fabric, which imparts a luxurious drape with greater longevity. This is why Kanjivaram is considered an heirloom. The use of pure zari and the elaborate tail pieces and borders mirrors opulence.
How does Kanjeevaram for weddings hold up against popular choices such as Benarasi or the Lehanga?
The real zari as used in Kanjeevaram saris, unlike in most other silks, contains a high amount of silver and gold. Silk is a valuable textile. The design language of Benarasi, which is as old and versatile as Kanjeevaram, is Mughal-inspired. It does not represent the continuum of Indian design traditions as much as the Kanjivaram. Likewise, in comparison to a lehanga, Kanjeevaram is an older piece of textile, lighter and easier to wear for an Indian wedding. While lehangas or Benarasis have their appeal with changing fashion parameters, traditions remain relevant forever.
What are the other innovations you have introduced?
I take pride in the introduction of linen and khadi-blended kanjeevarams. My design intervention has been in every single area of textile design — from intervention in yarn, to technique, motifs and colour. When we introduced linen in 2010, few people in India used it in handlooms. It was all the more difficult to infuse it into Kanjeevaram as the basic composition and structure of the fabric had not undergone any change for centuries. To do this and still maintain the design aesthetics by keeping the base characteristic of the fabric intact was a true challenge.
What are the biggest influences in your work?
I was not formally schooled in a design institute. I wanted to be an entrepreneur and after my studies abroad, textiles and fashion was a natural choice given my family’s history. My father R Kothandaraman, who has pioneered various aspects in the silk industry way back in the 1950s and 60s, was my biggest influence. He is an institution having collaborated closely with the likes of Pupul Jayakar and Rukmini Arundale. I learnt many aspects of design by practical exposure. Prior to the launch of my label, Advaya, I worked in home textiles for international clients that exposed me to a wider gamut of design influences. I have been a fan of Jack Lenor Larsen and Jim Thompson, and respect the work of the late Gianni Versace, and Giorgio Armani who was a doctor and went on to become a designer.
TURN BACK THE CLOCK
The Angadi family has been in the business of textiles for over 600 years. They started out as court weavers to several royal families and belong to the Padmasaliya weaving community. They are credited to have introduced silk weaving into Kanchipuram several centuries ago when they migrated from their ancestral home towns in what is now Telangana. The Angadi family was the first to set up India’s fully integrated handloom weaving facility in the 1960s. They also introduced mechanised dyeing of silk yarn, considering that most handlooms even today remain confined to households and a large part of silk dyeing in the handloom sector also sticks to hand dyeing.