Sarees have always had a heavy influence on the Indian fashion industry, spanning over five thousand years, and have had many elevations and updates through all these years. Sarees are also daily attire for many women throughout the Indian subcontinent and have been part of many captivating tales in Indian history.
Today, we see many variations of sarees not only in India but globally, donned by many celebrities and also as a part of several women’s wardrobes as a fashion statement. In the modern take, the Gen Z generation has revolutionized saree draping from all its glorious forms and amalgamated it with Western flair. The saree varieties from Kanjeevaram to Paithani to Banarasi, with different fabrics and embroidery work make a distinctive visual appeal and create the most beautiful silhouettes which we see many designers integrate in collections on the runway as well. The saree style outfits at this point have no end with the endless possibilities with the different draping styles.
Pop culture has indeed revolutionized the sarees today vastly! While researching how the saree has impacted globally, especially the Gen Z generation, a piece from BBC’s article on How Gen Z is putting a fresh spin on a centuries-old fashion talked about how Milan Mathew, a Gen Z fashion influencer from North America, proudly represents her Malayali heritage on social media. She highlights the lack of South Asian, particularly Malayali, representation in the Western fashion industry. With an impressive TikTok following of over 800,000, her videos featuring Malayali saree styles serve as a platform to promote and embrace her cultural heritage.
One of her most popular videos, "How I Drape My Saree," has garnered over 8 million likes. In this video, Milan showcases a modern twist by draping the saree over leggings instead of the traditional petticoat, adding a modern and stylish touch to the traditional saree draping techniques.
We have also witnessed many foreign celebrities donning the saree through the years at red carpet events. The sequence of this started when Zendaya, graced in an ethereal saree for a gala evening at the Nita Mukesh Ambani Culture Centre in Mumbai in April. She donned an exquisite hand-embroidered deep blue sari gown paired with an embellished bralette. This eclectic ensemble, a total labor of 3000 hours, was meticulously handcrafted by Rahul Mishra, a renowned Indian couturier, who also made history by showcasing his work on the official schedule at Paris Haute Couture Week in 2020. Notably, this outfit served as the inspiration for a subsequent blush and silver rendition that debuted at Mishra's couture show in Paris, in July of 2023.
Many influencers have incorporated sarees in their everyday casual wear too, pairing them with sneakers and making a statement of the saree’s comfort and versatility. Gen Z especially today are known for eccentric fashion that amalgamates several aesthetics as well as design aspects together forming unique styles that aren’t just outfits but also often express stories and multitudes of thought process. The modern era is about embracing authenticity while also recognizing the varied styles of fashion of the past and making them relevant to the present.