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The ‘Sari’ Renaissance: Make in India inspires Manish Malhotra’s ‘Regal Threads’

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When Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi decided to spin his own yarn and weave his own fabric, he wanted to inspire India to be self sufficient and to not be dependent or enticed by the western goods or lifestyle.

Inspired by Gandhiji, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make In India” campaign has come full circle. India is searching within its roots. For years, Indian fashion designers have seeked to break the rules and juxtapose Indian fashion alongside the trends in New York, Paris and Milan.

On the other hand, designers & high end labels from New York & Paris have looked to India for inspiration.

Drawing from the authentic, hand-crafted one of a kind techniques in a modern context to the adventurous, uniquely-spirited luxury clientele.

In Mumbai, where Bollywood and Indian fashion collide & collaborate, there is a new buzz.

Underneath one of Manish Malhotra’s showrooms, stretched across a large table are the latest saris fresh off the looms. The new collection “Regal Threads” is singing an old tune. Silks, Benarasis, woven using handlooms, just imperfect enough to be authentic in technique & texture.

“I am so happy the sari is back the way it used to be,” Malhotra says, of his decision to create these pieces using the handloom rather than power loom – a rewind to the original craftsmanship of the sari.

His team checks and irons the saris before delivering them to the shop floor.

For Malhotra is all about breaking the rules, and in the world of power looms and 3D printing, the slightly rustic, hand made in India has now made a comeback.

But, its not just technique, ‘Regal Threads’ is modern and fresh. Using traditional Benarasi brocade, overlaying bold, gold florals & paisleys on distinctively western plaids and stripes in neutral grays and blacks, Malhotra is able to blend the traditional and authentic with chic & modern.

Malhotra is among a wave of fashion designers enthused by the “Make In India” campaign. Launched in 2014, it aims to encourage business across the Globe to manufacture their goods in India.

In a recent interview with Diya TV, designer Anita Dongre says she has and continues to find inspiration in India. Her modern and traditional mix has garnered the attention of the diaspora worldwide and she plans to open a boutique in New York later this year.

Gaurav Bhatia, a luxury consultant and trend spotter, says, “[In the late 1990s], the sari fell out of favor in lieu of ‘Indo-Western’ wear, a trend that allowed a certain amount of casualness and perceived modernity, with kurtis (short, trendy tunics) and churidars (tight pants aka. The Indian legging).”

In 2011, LVMH’s Hermes launched a new line of saris for the Indian market. The Hollywood counterparts in India rocked the same designers from the west, until an option such as Hermes became available.

The Indian retail industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and the brands from the west now want a piece. Even brands such as Mango, Marks & Spencer and Zara began to arrive on the Indian high street – making Western clothing accessible and affordable. Make in India, however, has fostered a patriotism that has been critical in swaying Indian consumers back to the sari, says Bhatia.

“There’s now a great deal of pride in dressing Indian and wearing Indian. While the sari got lost for a while — with women in urban India choosing the convenience of Western wear — it’s now making a comeback.

“It’s about embracing one’s culture organically, and it’s cool to do so.”

The decision by Malhotra, and other designers, to return to the sari’s roots has been well received.

“I feel like a million bucks when I wear handloom saris,” says Gayatri Rangachari Shah, vice president for Tina Brown Live Media India.

“I know I am supporting weavers who need help in accessing new markets and customers. So many of our crafts are dying and it would make a big difference if everyone did their bit to support our centuries old talent.”

Shah is not alone: while spending on luxury goods in India grew 25 per cent in 2014, according to research firm Euromonitor, international brands still only account for a tiny share of the market.Indian consumers favor foreign brands when it comes to shoes, bags and watches, they prefer traditional dress when it comes to clothes.

In the south Indian city of Bengaluru, entrepreneurs Ally Matthan and Anju Maudgal Kadam last year started a viral campaign. The #100sareepact asks women to make a pledge to wear a sari twice a week — or 100 times a year — and share images of them doing so on social media.

With over 800 followers on Twitter, and with more than 7,500 posts under the hashtag on Instagram, the campaign has seen women post not just pictures of their saris, but has also sparked debate on drapes and weaves, and inspired women to share the stories behind their saris. If you want to get involved in the debate, you can do so by creating an Instagram, and you can always get free instagram followers without a survey if your profile is slow to get noticed; that way people are more likely to see your input.

Sangeeta Mhatre, who works for an international bank in Mumbai, is halfway into the year-long #100sareepact commitment, and says she has been pleasantly surprised by how her sari has been received in the office. “I find that saris command a lot more respect than any other form of office wear, and actually make a power statement the Indian way,” she says.

Malhotra, of course, is a man who understands the power of social media on fashion. The 50-year-old designer has over 700,000 Instagram followers and believes the platform is helping fuel the renaissance of traditional craftsmanship in the sari market. “I respect social media for that … there’s a lot of awareness celebrating art and crafts, and culture, and tradition,” he says.

“Various designers are doing interesting things with handloom and textiles and I think, for me at Manish Malhotra as a label, as a designer, as a person, its very exciting for me to do a lot of textile and most importantly is to get the sari back [in fashion].”

With the Spring Summer 2016 collection of Regal Threads, Malhotra is doing just that.

*This article was first published on CNN.

Arts & Culture

IFFLA celebrates 20 years with a focus to mentor the next generation

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IFFLA celebrates 20 years with a trip down memory lane

LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — IFFLA celebrated their 20th anniversary with familiar faces, overwhelming excitement and new additions to Southern California’s largest Indian and South Asian focused film festival.

Pan Nalin opened the festival with his film Last Film Show, a love letter to cinema and loosely based on his childhood.

“I think IFFLA over the years, it has been like a home in Hollywood. So I was always able to come here and invite people from the industry to see these movies,” said Nalin. “There are producers who usually don’t go to see Indian cinema. So I feel that it’s really important.”

Director Anurag Kashyap returned to host a MasterClass — a way to give back to the festival and fellow filmmakers.

“It is always good to be back here because for me this is where it all started from. And it’s amazing to see that this festival has grown so much and has been sustaining for so long,” said Kashyap.

New filmmakers were honored to be part of the lineup this year, especially after no in-person IFFLA for the last two years.

Hena Asraf, Director of The Return, shares “it feels a little unreal. It feels great! I think especially to be at a festival in person, after over two years.” 

“The community is amazing. The welcome is very warm. It feels just so honoring to be a part of this festival and amongst these filmmakers. I can’t wait to see all the other films,” said The Return Editor Esther Shubinski.

It’s that family feeling that makes IFFLA special and keeps filmmakers, attendees, and staff keep coming back.

Actor and director Ravi Kapoor is “just so grateful for this festival. It has been such a supporter of me. And they’ve helped bring the South Asian diasporic community here in LA together as well. Thank god they’ve lasted 20 years.”

Actor & musician Monica Dogra points out “what’s wonderful about IFFLA [is] it’s super niche, South Asians in LA of all places. [And] it’s small enough so you actually see people anyway.”

Actor Pooja Batra added, “I think they’ve always been eclectic with their mix of selection that they bring around here — smaller budget, smaller sort of productions also need a shout out.”

One of the new additions this year is the Spotlight on South Asia.

Festival founder Christina Marouda added this vertical to present films from different countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal. “We’re putting a spotlight on projects we want to support,” said Marouda.

The other major new change this year was a live table read of IFFLA alum Kahlil Maskati’s feature script, Alim Uncle, rather than a closing night film. Fawzia Mirza directed the piece.

These changes reflect IFFLA’s commitment to supporting filmmakers while giving audiences more than a viewing experience. In fact, they are able to be part of the filmmaking process.

Marouda says after 20 years, this is IFFLA’s direction moving forward — a full effort to mentor budding filmmakers, while showcasing new films.

Ravi Kapur and Deepti Dawar contributed to this report.

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Garcetti’s ambassadorship to India in limbo

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Garcetti's ambassadorship to India in limbo | Diya TV News

WASHINGTON DC (Diya TV) — Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has lifted the “hold” on the Senate confirmation of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has been nominated by US President Joe Biden as the country’s next ambassador to India. Initially, Grassley planned to object to the nomination, saying Garcetti failed to properly investigate sexual assault allegations and harassment by a close advisor.

Protesters in Sri Lanka have burned down homes belonging to 38 politicians as the crisis-hit country plunged further into chaos, with the government ordering troops to shoot anyone caught destroying property. Even the former Prime Minister had to be evacuated from his home. Angry Sri Lankans continue to defy a nationwide curfew to protest against what they say is the government’s mishandling of the country’s worst economic crisis since 1948.

Internationally recognized Indian American energy expert Arun Majumdar will head the new Stanford University Doerr School of Sustainability, which aims to tackle urgent climate and sustainability challenges,

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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LA Kings host first Indian cultural night

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LA Kings host first ever Indian Cultural Night

LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — The Los Angeles Kings hosted their first Indian Cultural Night at the Crypto.com Arena, a new initiative intended to broaden their appeal to a growing demographic. Many of the guests in attendance and the special invitees on hand talked about what the representation of the evening means to them.

Robin Bawa, the first South Asian NHL Player, said “this is great. This is a good idea that the Kings are doing. The first Indian Cultural Night here in the US, and they did a good job – coming down here to be part of this was also a great honor. You know it is all about spreading the word and getting the Indian community involved in these types of things and bringing them out to games.”

“We are here to grow the game, and this allows other people to understand the game and really get embraced by it,” said Dampy Brar, APNA Hockey Co-Founder. “So there’s a lot of South Asian families and population here. When they have nights like this, more will come, more will get introduced to hockey, educate themselves. So to be part of this night and to be able to do what I did today was special.”

Amrit Gill, host of Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi Edition, concurred. “If you can see it, you can be it, as cliche as it sounds. It is one of the most powerful tools in helping create more inclusion not only in sports, but in society as well. So I am over the moon to be here, but this is just the beginning.”

Indian American TikTok stars Kiran and Nivi sang the National Anthem. Kiran explained that this is their “first time attending a game and performing the national anthem.” Nivi added she was “just so grateful to be part of this.”

Indian American actress Sway Bhatia says representation matters in sports and media. Bhatia portrays a hockey player on Disney’s brand new Mighty Ducks TV show.

“Seeing so many people with faces of color, and to be one of those people, is just so empowering,” said Bhatia. And you know, other people in the stadium are able to see who we are and see what we do. I mean we had two amazing brown people of color sing the national anthem, which was so beautiful.”

Organizers are calling the evening a success after a larger than expected turnout and hope this continues to expand the popularity of the game.

Randip Janda, Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi Edition Host, points out that “this is a moment where not only hockey fans are able to celebrate what’s going on tonight but this is a community coming together and celebrating those common bonds whether you’re Indian, whether South Asian or not. A celebration like this, it shows you something. That the rink, where you go and you might be having a bad day but you’re going to celebrate. Win, lose or draw, it should be a party every single time. I think this helps us understand people around us and our communities and hockey can be a vessel of that.”

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