The kind of versatility with which Pooja Jagadeesh ties sarees is a trend of its own. Jagadeesh, who believes that saree as a garment never needed saving, got comfortable wearing them nearly a decade ago. As a graphic Designer and an avid traveller, her inspiration for creativity comes from her daily life encounters.
With more Indian women embracing the six yards like never before and taking inspiration from trendsetters like Pooja Jagadeesh, SheThePeople decided to chat with her about her love for sarees, her creative ideas behind unique styles, and why there's a dire need to value Indian handloom and craftsmanship now more than ever.
Pooja Jagadeesh Interview
How and when did your love for sarees begin?
My love for textiles came first and sarees were an obvious extension of that. I have been fascinated by textiles and how people wear/use them, be it in garments or in their homes, for as long as I can remember. All of this was only fuelled by growing up around women who shared a passion for the six yards as well. My mother’s collection of sarees definitely shaped my own sensibilities. However, while I admired them on others, I got comfortable wearing sarees much later in life, in fact, it was only as recently as about 8-9 years ago.
Is the versatility always something you wanted to experiment with, or did it happen organically?
Organically. It was not something I set out to do consciously at all. And looking back it was a classic case of form following function. Having embraced the saree much later in life, I needed to make the saree work for me. Which then meant finding hacks that could dovetail seamlessly with my existing wardrobe as well as lifestyle. For that, I had to look beyond conventions and rule books (read more as conditioning) to transition from the saree being perceived as a traditional, ceremonial garment meant only for ‘special occasions to something I’d throw on instinctively for work, travel or even a causal evening out at the neighbourhood pub. Despite all my love for sarees that was unimaginable to me when I started out and definitely didn’t happen overnight.
It took many small yet incremental steps to find my saree groove and what I was comfortable with personally. Expanding the definition of what qualifies as a ‘saree blouse’, simple structural changes in the pleats and pallu of the conventional Nivi drape, examining the need for a traditional underskirt (petticoat) or even just the choice of footwear and accessories that are otherwise typically associated with sarees —were few of the things that helped on my journey.
What also had a significant influence on me was accessing resources that have very effectively documented and even reimagined traditional regional drapes from all over the country in a contemporary way: The Saree Series by Border and Fall being one of them.
You’re giving sarees a new twist. It seems both motivational and inspirational to see how more young women are taking to this attire and adding their own personal touch to it. Have you witnessed a change around you in this regard?
Indeed it’s been heartening to see an increasing tribe of people, beyond the constructs of gender and age, who are finding new and exciting ways to make the saree their own. And that’s only a testament to the versatility of the saree — after all, it’s the most inclusive garment there is and will always remain relevant.
But for all the people who claim that the saree as a garment is endangered, I’d disagree. I don’t think it ever needed saving. That’s mostly an urban, elitist, restricted view on how what and where sarees should be worn in my opinion. Enough and more people in our country have always worn and continue to choose it as their everyday attire.
Being a traveller, does it help you also absorb the cultural richness of this attire across Indian states?
It definitely does I’m sure. And I think a large part of my fairly eclectic personal style has been shaped by my travels. Our mind’s eye constantly connects the dots, storing that away and throwing it back at us in seemingly unlikely ways and situations. So, it’s never about experimenting or breaking the rules just for the sake of being different. It stems from being open to the new, be they experience, cultures, people or places and seeing what emerges when those intersect. Discovering serendipitous visual connections between what I wear and the places I visit is a passion project of mine.
Do you have a particular favourite saree pattern or cloth texture?
Not really but I have an undying love for combining colours and textures. And I am instinctively more drawn to graphic patterns and geometry.
Is there anything you want to say to women who are opening up to the saree experience and embracing it lately?
Always choose comfort over style, trends or fashion. The saree was designed to be a practical and functional garment, not a costume. Find what works for you and that might not be something that necessarily works for others. A good place to start is to remember that there is no right or wrong to this, just embrace the saree in all its versatility.
In today’s world, it’s also the most sustainable garment by way of the endless possibilities that it offers as a one-size-fits-all garment.
Buy less but buy better. Choose fabrics that are eco-conscious and handcrafted over mass-produced whenever possible. If you are cost-conscious, then preloved sarees are a great way to add to your collection.
Invest some time to educate yourself, not just about the rich legacy of textiles and craftsmanship that our country holds, but also about how our every purchase can affect the delicate handloom/craft ecosystem and the livelihoods of thousands who depend on this industry which is still the second largest employer in our country.
Suggested reading: UK-Based Odia Woman Completes 42.5 KM Marathon Wearing Sambalpuri Saree