Sarees set to go global as shorts, skirts, pants

New Delhi: Talk show host Oprah Winfrey wore a saree and popstar Lady Gaga draped one during their visits to India, adding to the list of celebrities seen sporting the traditional Indian outfit now seen as a fashion `must-have` in wardrobes across the world.

Delhi-based Sanya Dhir, an alumnus of the London College of Fashion is now set to launch a collection of custom sarees aimed at youngsters and the modern cosmopolitan woman. "We want to make the saree a global trend and are looking to take it on an international platform. We hope to take this strong representative outfit of Indian fashion and make it accessible to the world clientele," says Dhir.

Dhir`s ecommerce site `Gojawaani` scheduled to go online today would retail sarees with quirky names such as, `Anti-Behenji` `Oh Teri Behen ki` etc. The range includes `Da Ping` for the corporate women who can wear a sari over trousers, the `Oh My God` range with saris as shorts and with slits for clubbing and yet another `Anti-Behenji` for casual everyday dressing.

"Sarees have now become so personalised that they can be draped as skirts, trousers and even shorts. We want to bring back the phenomenon of the saree. The industry demands something new and we thought why not present the timeless drape with a modern twist," says Dhir.

The designer-turned-entrepreneur who has worked with prestigious luxury brands like Marc Jacobs and Lladr`o and also served a personal shopper to people says the new retail range is targeting mass markets in the US, UK and the Middle East, regions she says has a strong immigrant and NRI population.

Oprah Winfrey attended a private party in Mumbai recently outfitted in a special sari with zips and skirt like drapes by designer Tarun Tahiliani. Previously, socialite Paris Hilton, and popstar Gaga had also worn sarees during their India visits and sarees have also seen to be adding chutzpah on several red carpet events. Also, fashionistas continue to device newer ways to wear the outfit, accessorising it with vests, jeans, and sneakers.

Fashion student turned entrepreneur Dhir says now she wants to turn the Indian outfit into a global phenomenon and make it available at stores worldwide. "Our market is the mainstream. There is a strong cross cultural influences now all over the world and eventually we want our sarees to be available at departmental stores like Harrods and Selfridges. The aim is to go beyond preconceived notion of saree being old fashioned," she says.

Dhir`s concept is not new and leading Indian designers such as Tarun Tahiliani, Manish Malhotra, Anamika Khanna, Sabyasachi, Nida Mehmood, Meera and Muzaffar Ali all have experimented with the traditional nine or six yards of cloth adding zips, and other embellishments to transform it into modern style statements.

So also western design houses like the French Hermes recently launched a collection of saris especially catered to the Indian market, previously French fashion designer Jean Paul Gautier had showcased a line of sari dresses.

While designers and fashion houses have been offering ready made saris, Dhir says it is too few. "Well, there are already some designers in the market, but they are in the niche luxury segment producing only a few pieces. We are planning to go all out in the mass market space," says Dhir.

The ready-to-wear collection is packaged as far from being "dated, tedious to tie and for aunties-next-door. I am sure the sari will be the next little black dress for women," says Dhir.

The Delhi designer has a phased business plan. While the first phase involves launch of an ecommerce website followed by a distributership phase, the final phase would involve setting up of flagship stores.

"We are not selling a saree but an experience. The collections are pocket friendly and come in various materials like geogettes to even denim. We are not associating with any known designers but are relying on fresh talent and have our own inhouse design team," says Dhir.

The new range of sarees, she says, is priced between Rs 2000 to Rs 5000 and higher.