A Lehenga with a conscience

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Consider this lockdown project by Bangalore-based Madhurya Creations that had actress Alia Bhatt wear a Lehenga created beautifully with sustainable principles. 

Alia Bhatt looked resplendent in her blush pink Lehenga and nothing made more sense than ‘her dress and her message’ for a Diwali during the pandemic. “This Diwali I wanted to do something different, instead I wore something different,” said Alia Bhatt on her 50-million-plus Instagram platform.

The embroidery employed is the piece de resistance of Alia’s pink Lehenga with the movement of the threads given a meaningful twist. Alia wore this custom-made creation by Bangalore-based Madhurya Creations, a designer textile label that many other Bollywood celebrities as Priyanka Chopra, Madhuri Dixit, Kangana Ranaut, Samantha Akkineni, and Kajal Aggarwal amongst others have been associated with. “Observe each panel of the Lehenga that represents different landscapes – green-meadows, mountains, and ocean – every detail converted to a hand embroidery by 13 kaarigars who were given work for sustaining themselves during the pandemic,” says Bharathy Harish, co-ordinator of Madhurya Creations in Bangalore.

Madhurya Creations is an initiative started by the volunteers of the Art of Living to revive the dying traditional arts and crafts of India. It works with traditional weavers, encouraging them to keep their crafts alive. Traditional silk and cotton weaves are a large part of this revival initiative. “The proceeds of the sales we make also support over 723 free schools across the country run by AOL. This initiative combined with the craft revival ideologies has prompted celebrities in the film world to wear saris designed, and woven by Madhurya,” says Bharathy.

Bharathy Harish, co-ordinator, Madhurya Creations.

Bharathy in an interview shares the minutiae of the designed lehenga, aptly zeroed-in by Alia Bhatt for the festive season. “It was more appropriate of Alia to have matched it with silver jhumkas and noticeable bangles to balance and harmonize the pastel light-weight gown without embellishments,” adds Bharathy.  Excerpts of the interview

  • A message on sustainability was the highlight of Alia Bhatt’s custom-made pink lehenga from Madhurya Creations, made from entirely waste fabric
  • The Lehenga is embroidered with drawings made by children from Art Of Living free schools across the city.
  • The Bollywood star’s outfit was dedicated to the planet during the pandemic with a positive message of textile upcycling, especially highlighting her green Diwali

You had posted the dress on Madhurya’s website/Instagram? 

 The outfit was made for Alia Bhatt in collaboration with her stylist Ami Patel.

Can you explain how the whole design came through?

The Art Of Living has 723 free schools educating close to 72,000 underprivileged children from across the country. This lehenga was our lockdown project. At some of these schools, 35 children were given the theme,  “My Beautiful Planet” in different groups for making drawings of different landscapes and eco-systems, including the oceans, the desert, the arctic regions, the countryside, the tropical forest, even outer space and so on. We then chose from their creative outpourings from their deft hands and adapted them into applique work on the lehenga panels made with the waste fabric lying at our workshop. 35 children, 13 karigars, and two designers, along with Ami Patel were involved in modeling this outfit for Alia Bhatt.

How did you go about converting the drawings to be designed by kaarigars?

Each artwork was sampled several times till we were satisfied with the way it was looking. Then the panel representing the eco-system was composed and created. Sustainable fashion is the way forward for conscious living. The narrative was to have as many hands to contribute to creating this beautiful outfit.
The material used was extra bits and pieces of various fabrics that we had with us in the workshop. So another story of turning waste into fashion wealth. While we call it waste fabric, it is not really “waste” – one can creatively make use of whatever resources we have to develop something unique and useful.

Also, why did you want the dupatta with lyrics of Ae Watan with the names of the children whose drawings inspired the appliqué embroidery?

Ae watan is a beautiful patriotic song from Alia Bhatt’s movie Raazi. Caring for the country, caring for the planet….the essence is in spotlighting the value of caring. We added the names of the children who inspired the drawings to honor their creativity. It reminds us of the childlike innocence in us even as we grow up.

Alia has earlier worn a Madhurya sari with kitten motifs on the red carpet during the zee cine awards where she won the Best Actress for her performance in Udta Punjab. It was her first public appearance in a sari.

What are the forgotten weaves that Madhurya has revived…

Madhurya, a revival boutique is close to a decade old. We work with nearly 1200 weavers from Kanchi, uppada, paithan, chanderi, maheshwar, banaras, kota, phulia, and several other parts of the country. Uppada saris are something that Madhurya is keen to promote and bring to the attention of people. Besides this, we would like to revive the traditional designs that prevailed in each weave but also catering to the current trends in terms of color palette, etc. We would like to spotlight the deeper meaning behind the traditional motifs that were used so that the sentiment they represent goes beyond just design. We have shared some of these meanings on our Instagram page as well.

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