For the longest time, the feted Parsi gara always left an area about a handspan across free of embroidery on the pallu. “It’s because the women draped the sari over their right shoulder and tucked the top end of the pallu at the back. That corner of the sari was never seen by anybody, so it made no sense to work on it," says Ashdeen Lilaowala, a National Institute of Design graduate and textile revivalist who has worked with the Parsi gara—the finely embroidered saris that are a vivid record of community history—for more than a decade.

That nugget from Lilaowala came almost by the way at the Monday launch of the Registry of Sarees, an initiative floated by businesswoman Ally Matthan—a founder of last year’s social media phenomenon #100sareepact—her colleague Apoorva Sadanand and textile expert Kausalya Satyakumar to deepen the urban consumer’s connect with the sari-creating community through knowledge-sharing, weaver-engagement and textile trails.

“Over the past year, we realized how much we have (by way of textile wealth) and how little we know," says Satyakumar. “As Ashdeen mentioned during his talk, he has clients confusing the Parsi gara embroidery with Kashmiri work. And there’s the next generation too—I want my daughter to be able to tell between a Chanderi and a Maheshwari."

Alongside creating awareness about saris and textiles—and, possibly, other indigenous art and craft forms in the future—the registry is looking at directly supporting looms. “Around January, when Ally and I were discussing how we could contribute to better the ground realities for weavers, the Dastkari Haat Samiti put us in touch with two weaving clusters, in West Bengal and northern Karnataka. We invested in four looms in each centre, asking each weaver to produce 25 saris in a non-specific time period. Under the #100sareeproject, these 200 saris—100 gamchha saris from Phulia and Nabadwip and another 100 of the Patteda Anchu weave from Karnataka—will be sold at 2-hour pop-ups hosted by sari pact-ers on 22 and 23 April in Bengaluru," says Satyakumar. “The weavers will interact directly with the consumer and get a first-hand feel of the value he or she has created. We hope they’ll be able to return the investment, retain the balance and procure orders for another 100 saris each—and repeat the process over at least a year."

At the moment, the three founders are cautiously feeling their way about the project: So much, they say, remains to be done in the area of India’s textile wealth that it would be easy to lose focus. Concentrated in Bengaluru for the moment, the project can travel elsewhere depending on the interest in other cities.

For details about The Registry Of Sarees visit www.facebook.com/TheRegistryOfSarees/?fref=ts or Theregistryofsarees.com (it will go live on 23 April).

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