9 south Indian fashion labels that deserve space in your closet
Curated by Dhanya Balasubramanian, founder of Papreeka Tales
Discovering Papreeka Tales on Instagram is a recipe for derailed deadlines and some serious flexing on your credit card. The handle is a friendly GPS, guiding its 64,000 followers through the rash of fashion brands crowding the social media platform, with founder Dhanya Balasubramanian. The New York-based design strategy consultant admits her “ardent love for Indian home-grown fashion has been romantically nurtured over the past five years.” We reached out to Balasubramanian to handpick her favourite south Indian fashion labels. “I have researched and mapped brands that have the heart and soul of south India’s culture at the centre of their business, yet have an understated elegance that can be worn and celebrated by anyone willing,” she says.
9 south Indian fashion labels you deserve to know
Plantation House, Bengaluru
The brand takes simple folk-inspired silhouettes and juxtaposes them against each other to create a style so unique to the modern Indian woman. The palette is drawn from the earth herself. The materials are mostly handwoven sourced from weaving communities across the country. The colours are chemical but safe. My favourite pick is the Rag Empire Overshirt that is versatile and can be paired with most things in your wardrobe.
Swapna Mehta, Hyderabad
Swapna Mehta reinvents the magic around tradition with her jewellery, redesigned from antique pieces that she collects on her travels around the country. Every piece, and I use this phrase very sparingly, is worthy of desire. She exhibits around the country and that’s the best way to own her creation, though I won’t blame you if you just want to stare at it and not wear it.
Taking handwoven saris and creating a brand of their own is a hard task. South Indian fashion label Ethicus draws on its strong commitment to the yarn producing and weaving community that it’s been doing business with for many decades. The weaving unit works out of Pollachi and the designs are made in-house with a delicate simplicity. Their transparency is their greatest strength and if you’re ever in the south of Tamil Nadu, you must visit their workshop to learn for yourself. My favourite pick is their most popular piece – the ‘rainbow sari’ which has 6,400 colours.
Kerala reminds us of the white and gold traditional fabrics woven into saris and mundus. Anka brings more vibrancy into the ivories and golds with their warm shades. Their visuals depict a very simple lifestyle, one that is adorned just by the luxury of the fabric on a woman. The occasional jewel-toned sari glistens among the muted tones, making it just as attractive as the other ones. My favourite pick from this South Indian fashion label is the sari with a muted pink body and glistening gold border.
A truly heritage South Indian fashion label, they show you how curating Kanjeevarams is an art in itself. A bridal haven, this store is a destination for any woman looking to wear a Kanjeevaram for her festivities. What’s amazing with Kanakavalli is the consistency of experience across social media, blog, website and stores. Each better than the other, the longer you engage with them. Kingsley, the flagship store in Chennai, is everything the visuals promise it to be. Elegant understated royalty is the promise. They are available in multiple locations across the country and also host other sari brands from time to time. My favourite pick is the vault collection – which are revived grand designs and colour palettes.
Varnam Collective, Bengaluru
A social enterprise that has built a brand around reviving the 200-year old Channapatna tradition of making toys. Varnam has built a lineup of products – saris, shirts, toys, jewelry, and home décor all paying tribute to artisans and making shopping meaningful. They are also in Mumbai now. My favourite pick: the block-printed cotton shirts for men and boys. They come in the cutest of designs and will make a great gift for the men in your life.
Roia makes handcrafted jewellery, primarily silver and some brass. Every part of the process is handmade, quite literally, from cutting, beating to polishing. The raw work of the designer is visible in the outcome. The jewellery aesthetics are inspired from the designer’s travels across the country. One can enjoy the art behind metalsmithing through this brand. Their trademark pieces are nose pins that come in unique shapes and sizes. You can also reach out to the brand to customise your order. My favourite pick is the artist’s brass neck pieces.
Razia Kunj, Mumbai
Razia Kunj’s art is her jewellery and vice versa. She takes painstaking efforts to source, piece and design every piece. Her collections are inspired from the things she grew up with and finds alluring about India as a whole country. There is a tonne of work and precision put into every piece and it is evident when you hold the jewellery in your hands. Her art demands attention and deserves every bit of it. Popular among creatives and bold women for just the right reason, my favourite is the Theyyam collection which is available on their website.
Bhargavi Kunam, Hyderabad
Bhargavi Kunam’s style is South Indian with a heightened sense of Telugu. Her designs always brighten the room and pop color in just the right way. Another bridal haven, this studio revives yesteryear combinations in silk saris with elegance. Popular among celebrities in Andhra and Telangana, Bhargavi does justice to every design she touches.
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