Stepping away from the group of women dotted around his shop pondering over which vibrant colour to wear to their friend’s wedding, Mr Islam (as he asked to be called) explains how the saree style changes depending on the region.
“The Bengal is cotton,” he says, “and the southern style is more silk, while in Mumbai it’s more modernist so you get more embellishment such as diamantes.” Regardless of regional differences, the saree is a ubiquitous garment and one of the oldest items of clothing on record, with many tracing it back 5000 years.Sarees are an unstitched piece of cloth which evolved from the ancient Hindu belief that stitching made it impure. “There is no size to a saree,” says Mr Islam, “because it is just a piece of material it can be beautifully embellished and perfectly fit anyone of any size, bringing such elegance.”
They are also highly adaptable depending on the climate, they can be warm in the winter, and cooling in the summer. “We get a range of customers, regulars buying for daily and party wear, alongside a handful of curious Caucasians and tourists, looking to buy for an Indian wedding that they have been invited to.”
With such a range of different materials, including pure silk, georgette and chiffon, Mr Islam points out that people use them as drapes in the home and for fabric to make dresses. “For me, the elegance of the saree is unmatchable. You don’t get the intricacy of design and daily explosion of colour in British fashion or any fashion throughout the world. It is truly unique and special.”