It’s time to redefine art, for a saree could well be a masterpiece that takes form through collaboration. For the past 3 years, Bangalore-based designer Seema Haydon has been pursuing her passion for Indian handlooms and her brand Varastraa is a manifestation of that long arduous journey.
Born in Ahmedabad, Seema was fascinated by her mother’s sarees- the subtle chiffons and Banarasis. Growing up in Gujarat, the sensory paradise, she was surrounded and astounded by the colors, weaves and textures of the fabrics created there. When she extensively travelled to remote villages and got to know about the varied weaves, they appeared like paintings to her!
After raising two lovely daughters (one of whom is a lawyer and the other one studying in 12th), it was finally time to pursue what she wanted to do all along. Meanwhile, her extensive travels took her to places where she absorbed the regional palette and design sensibilities. That was how Varastraa was born in 2018, Vara, meaning beautiful and Vastra meaning garment, so Varatsraa literally means ‘beautiful garment’. Between 2018 and 2019, Seema did enormous amounts of shows with her sarees, stoles and dupattas all over the country. From Chennai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, and Bangalore, her pieces were the cynosure of eyes for the intricacy and innovation in the weaves. Seema has traveled to dozens of villages tracing and contacting skilled weavers, working with them, and translating her designs into form.
Tussar Saree with tie-and-dye technique
She has been attending numerous workshops to understand the nuances of handling colors in Batik, Kalamkari, Dabu from Rajasthan, Ajrakh from Gujarat, Chikankari from Lucknow, working with the Kashida clusters and now embarking on an ambitious Project Patola. Seema’s forte lay infusion which is why you get to see mesmerizing Chikankari on pastel Kanjivarams, Ajrakh on Kota, Dabu and Bagru on Linen, Kalamkari on Kanjivaram and Linen. These sarees are exclusively her designs, right from the concept stage. Seema loves to experiment with various surface techniques. She does Matka silk with mukaish, Chikankari, Gota Patti, Zardosi, Applique, Pita kaam to name a few. Surprisingly, all these sarees are handcrafted and use natural colors, extracted from herbs and flowers. That is why you don’t see the dramatic colors we’re so used to in machine-made fabrics. That definitely adds to a sense of being closest to nature and is completely eco-friendly. “Our country has many embroidery styles, unique to every region; some of these are on the verge of extinction. My mission is to revive these art forms by collaborating with the artisans and thereby provide them a livelihood,” says Seema.
A Kota Doria saree with Applique work
Seema’s latest Project Patola is where she has kept the designs intact from the weaving point of view but segregated the geometry for the pallu. It’s been a long process, taking her almost 2 years. First, the design is explained to the weaver and applied to the graph paper. Next, the surface design is created in the yarn itself, tied and dyed at the yarn stage. The yarn then goes up on a frame handloom to be woven into a beautiful saree. This process takes anywhere between twenty days to a month to complete. From a design standpoint, geometry and motifs are an integral part of the Patola art form. She’s brought in a contemporary twist, by migrating the geometric beauty to the “Pallu” and reserving the motif beauty to the body of the saree.
Only 12 to 15 sarees can be made on a loom. Seema’s designs sometimes are a bit difficult for the weavers to understand, who are used to creating traditional designs, but they have painstakingly worked with her ideas creating pieces that are not just heirlooms, but also works of art. These Single Ikats are not found anywhere in India.
As a focused revivalist who can fuse the traditional with the contemporary and yet make it look exquisite, Seema’s next passion is the Ashavali brocade from Gujarat which has very distinct colors, zari and motifs. She intends to bring in a contemporary touch to it.
Seema Haydon is showing her beautiful handcrafted sarees at Hotel Eefa, Belagavi on 20th Nov 2021. It is indeed an unmissable event where you can see for yourself how one person’s passion translates sarees into works of art. You can contact on 7760251949 for more details.