The UK India Year of Culture has brought the sari firmly back into the spotlight again this year with our Top 5 Most Stylish Women in a Sari 2017 using the garment to make a statement about their work, their ambitions or their outlook. Described as ‘a world of meaning in a single piece of cloth’, the sari encapsulates the beauty, adaptability and personality of India’s most iconic garment. The multi-functional sari is used to “filter out smog, carry keys, wipe a table, lift a hot vessel, wipe sweat and protect one’s modesty” whilst at the same time being used as a garment for seduction, passion and flirtation and to rock the red carpet!
Many more women have taken up wearing a sari this year, with an exploration of traditional, classic fabrics, vintage designs and contemporary patterns all vying for attention. Novelist Preethi Nair’s debut stage play Sari: The Whole Five Yards was a sell-out performance as part of this spring’s First Festival of Solo Theatre and returned to London’s Tristan Bates Theatre in the summer. The is play about a 62-year-old woman who reclaims her life after 40 years of living a life of pretense and the sari is very much a feature of the show.
Style is about more than just fashion. It is about presenting oneself with flair, exhibiting a verve for colour and appreciating the manner in which clothes, accessories and hair all work together to present a truly unique appearance. It is also about appreciating fabrics – the texture, appearance, colour and feel. And nothing is more stylish to pull off than a sari.
Here we present the Top 5 Most Stylish Women in a Sari in 2017.
Presented in alphabetical order by surname
Shrabani Basu was born in Calcutta, graduated from St Stephen’s College, Delhi, and earned her Master’s at Delhi University. She has been the London correspondent of Ananda Bazar Patrika group since 1988, writing for Sunday, Ananda Bazar Patrika and The Telegraph. Shrabani has appeared on several radio and television programmes in the UK including Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 and several documentaries on Queen Victoria, Noor Inayat Khan and curry. She is the author of ‘Curry: The Story of the Nation’s Favourite Dish’, ‘Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan’ and ‘Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant’, the film of which was released in September 2017. In 2010, Shrabani set up the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust to ensure that Noor’s story and sacrifice were preserved for the next generation. The Memorial was unveiled in London’s Gordon Square by Princess Anne in November 2012. It was followed by the release of a Royal Mail stamp in honour of Noor in March 2014. Her work to preserve the memory of the World War II heroine has been commended in the House of Lords.
British film director Gurinder Chadha OBE needs little introduction given that she is known for hit films Bhaji on the Beach (1993), Bend It Like Beckham (2002) and Bride and Prejudice (2004). This year, as well as launching Viceroy’s House, a British-Indian historical drama film based on the last Viceory of India, Lord Mountbatten, she also walked the ramp for Satya Paul’s show in aid of Pratham UK, helping to raise £450,000 for the educational charity for which she is an Ambassador. The funds will be used for the Pratham Second Chance program which is seeking to improve the quality of education and learning levels across India.
After starting her media career in radio in the mid-1980s, Gurinder moved into television as a BBC news reporter. She went on to direct award-winning documentaries for the British Film Institute, BBC and Channel Four. In 1990, Chadha set up a production company, Umbi Films. In 2015, Gurinder launched ‘Bend it Like Beckham The Musical’ based on her 2002 eponymous film. In 2017, she released Viceroy’s House. The film was screened at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival on 12 February 2017. She was awarded an OBE in the 2006 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for her services to the British film industry.
Lakshmi Kaul is the UK Representative at the Confederation of Indian Industry and Founder & Trustee of the Nainika Tikoo Memorial Trust for allergy awareness & brain research. A journalism and human rights graduate, Lakshmi specialises in development communications. She is a political campaigner and a member of the Conservative party. She is also the founder of the unique Jammu Kashmir Festival held in London in October. The festival aims to educate the people of United Kingdom about the entire state of Jammu Kashmir and its people, cultural heritage, potential and counters the misinformed propagandist narrative prevalent in the UK. Having encouraged and inspired women, especially stay-at-home mums to take active interest in entrepreneurship and local leadership and community roles, the Start-ups & Small Business Summit is her brainchild that aims to provide a platform to new businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs.
Dr Vayu Naidu was awarded Europe’s first Phd in oral traditions of Storytelling from South Asia by the University of Leeds. She installed the first Storytelling Programme at the University of Kent with an AHRC postdoctoral Fellowship creating discourse and methodology in Intercultural performance with oral narratives. Her creative and political work in diversity won her Arts Council England Revenue Funding (2004-2011) to establish Vayu Naidu Storytelling Theatre Company, touring nationally and internationally with new works in world music, jazz, contemporary dance, bharatanatyam, kathak, and African Caribbean carnival with world orchestras and British composers. In 2013 she was appointed as the first Sage-in-Residence at Eton College, working in partnership with diverse independent schools in relooking at the teaching of epics as literature from world cultures and their significance in an an age of celebrity.
In her new novel ‘The Sari of Surya Vilas’ (released in January 2017), Vayu Naidu tells the poignant story of a woman finding her voice against the backdrop of family secrets, betrayals and promises. In a compelling narrative, rich with period detail, it traces the silenced voices of marginalized people across Madras and the Deccan, who nevertheless left a mark on history – woven, told and sung, worn and passed on, bearing the residue of their passionate experiences.
The sari is used as the thread in her novel…
Excerpt from ‘The Sari of Surya Vilas’
1909: Allarmelu is nine years old when her mother dies, leaving her in Surya Vilas, the family home, which has turned into a world of spinster aunts and men. When she discovers that her mother’s wedding sari, an heirloom passed from mother to daughter, is missing, Allarmelu must track it down – without revealing that it was stolen by a family member. Tracing the sari sends her into a world never mentioned in genteel company, of exotic Russian dancers and unacknowledged mistresses. But puberty and the changing urban landscape of Madras make Allarmelu challenge the complacent silences of family and British rule alike.
Geeta Srivastava is the Director at Magic of India, an innovative social enterprise that teaches about Indian culture, arts and language in an engaging way. Prior to starting Magic Of India, Geeta set up and lead the UK arm of Shaadi.com for 9 years, establishing it as a household brand in the British market in the realm of online matchmaking. Her earlier positions include leading Ad Sales for Mainstream Agencies at Zee TV (UK), as well as leading all marketing initiatives including the first ever Asian Fair. She also ran the advertising and marketing arm for Raymond’s fashion, during which her work bagged her a number of awards. Her other roles include being the Director of The Indus Entrepreneurs UK, a networking organisation, as well as serving as Producer of a 13-episode television series on the best Indian restaurants of London. Geeta has been living in the London for the last 18 years, whilst constantly pursuing her interests in art, fashion, and culture.