The Offbeat Sari: A timeless fusion of tradition and innovation | HCLTech

The Offbeat Sari: A timeless fusion of tradition and innovation

HCLTech’s collaboration with The Design Museum in London showcases this iconic garment that exemplifies India’s vibrant and innovative culture
 
9 minutes read
Mousume Roy
Mousume Roy
APAC Reporter, HCLTech
9 minutes read
The Offbeat Sari: A timeless fusion of tradition and innovation

In the heart of London's creative hub at The Design Museum, a groundbreaking exhibition has been taking place, celebrating one of India's most iconic garments, the sari. Aptly titled “The Offbeat Sari”, this exhibition is a testament to the museum's dedication to contemporary design in all its forms, from architecture and fashion to graphics, product and industrial design.

HCLTech has joined hands with The Design Museum to support its mission of making the impact of design visible to all. As Ashish Kumar Gupta, Head of EMEA and Corporate Vice President at HCLTech, explained, this exhibition exemplifies how “design and technology are two superpowers that are starting to come together extremely beautifully.” Technology enables designers to create engaging experiences and sustainable innovations, while design makes technology more accessible, inclusive and human-centered.

A timeless tale: The rich history of the sari

Nicole Worthington, Head of Marketing EMEA & APAC, Global Thought Leadership at HCLTech, who also attended the event, expressed her profound fascination with the rich history of the sari and its role in Indian culture. "The sari is not just a garment; it's a piece of living history. It carries centuries of tradition, artistry and craftsmanship. This exhibition is a unique opportunity to delve into the intricate tapestry of India's cultural heritage through the lens of contemporary design," she said.

The sari, an attire that has graced the Indian subcontinent for over 5,000 years, has a story as rich and diverse as the nation itself. Its evolution is a journey that mirrors the complex tapestry of India's history, culture and identity. From its origins in the Indus Valley Civilization, which came into being during 2800-1800 BC in the northwest India to its depiction in ancient sculptures and paintings, the sari has always been more than just a piece of clothing; it's a symbol of India's enduring traditions.

Innovation meets tradition: The Offbeat Sari exhibition

The Offbeat Sari exhibition showcases the sari's contemporary and timeless appeal, celebrating its adaptability, versatility and constant reinvention to remain relevant in modern India. This exhibition is a voyage into the layered and complex definitions that shape India today. It brings together 60 exemplary saris, generously loaned by designers from India, and each one is a tribute to the enduring appeal of this garment.

One of the exhibition's highlights is the first sari ever worn to the New York’s Met Gala, a dazzling display of show stopping ensemble by Sabyasachi and Schiaparelli. This exquisite piece of couture is being displayed in Britain for the first time, offering visitors a rare glimpse into the glamour of the Met Gala and the sari's role in it. Alongside this, the exhibition features saris made from unconventional materials, such as woven steel and distressed denim, pushing the boundaries of design and material innovation.

In the spirit of celebrating the fusion of design and tradition, HCL Foundation’s My E-Haat online portal extends its support to this exhibition. This innovative initiative empowers artisans, particularly women, by connecting them directly with customers and providing skill building opportunities, thereby strengthening India’s vibrant handicraft sector, an integral part of the exhibitions narrative.

Design innovation: The sari as a site of creative expression

Gupta reflected on the symbiotic relationship between design and technology in the context of the sari. "The sari's transformation over millennia mirrors the fusion of tech and design today. It's not just about aesthetics; it's about functionality and sustainability. The sari exemplifies how design can adapt, innovate and remain culturally significant," he said.

Today, the sari in urban India is a canvas for design innovation, a powerful expression of individual and collective identity, and a crafted object carrying layers of cultural meanings. The Offbeat Sari exhibition delves into the sari as a metaphor for the multifaceted nature of India today, with exhibits that cover themes of history, gender equity, pop culture, innovation in materials and more.

With deep roots in the region, HCLTech is excited to share its perspective with stakeholders and explore themes of transformation, sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion — as well as design innovation. This exhibition serves as a platform to celebrate South Asian culture in all its glory, showcasing its vibrant colors, intricate craftsmanship and deep-rooted traditions.

Belief in the power of art and culture to inspire new ideas that lead to social change, drive progress and amplify human potential is at the core of the HCL Group's legacy. Through philanthropic ventures celebrating contemporary art, HCLTech continues to contribute to the rich cultural landscape of the world.

The sari's timeless allure

The Offbeat Sari exhibition not only celebrates the sari's contemporary designs but also delves into its timeless allure. The sari's enduring popularity lies in its ability to transcend time and trends. It seamlessly blends tradition with modernity, making it a garment for all seasons and occasions. Its drapes and folds tell stories of heritage and legacy, passed down through generations.

The sari's design is as diverse as India itself. It has evolved to accommodate regional tastes, preferences and climates. From the vibrant Banarasi silk saris of North India to the elegant Kanjivarams of the South, each region boasts its unique sari culture. The exhibition beautifully captures this diversity, inviting visitors to explore the myriad textures, colors and patterns that make the sari a timeless classic.

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The intersection of design and technology

In modern India, the sari is more than just a piece of clothing; it's a symbol of identity and resistance. Women across the country use the sari as a powerful tool for self-expression. The exhibition showcases how designers and wearers have transformed the sari into a symbol of empowerment, breaking free from stereotypes and embracing its versatility.

Worthington emphasized the sari's role in contemporary Indian culture, saying: "The sari is a statement of individuality, an emblem of cultural pride and a symbol of resistance against conformity. It's an art form that continually evolves to reflect the changing aspirations of women in India and around the world."

The sari's journey mirrors the evolving relationship between design and technology. Today, designers employ cutting-edge technology to create innovative sari designs. From digital printing techniques to sustainable fabric sourcing, technology plays a pivotal role in modern sari creation.

Gupta referred to the exhibition as a “juxtaposition of technology in a context that is very Indian”, while explaining how the use of technologies like generative AI in design needs to amplify what humans can do, rather than compete. Generative AI was leveraged during the event to showcase the power of tech and human ingenuity to create exquisitely innovative sari designs.

"The Offbeat Sari" exhibition at The Design Museum, London, is a homage to the cultural significance of the sari, encapsulating the rich history, timelessness and design innovation that define this iconic garment. HCLTech's partnership with The Design Museum underscores the shared commitment to celebrating contemporary design and its transformative power.

As visitors immerse themselves in the vibrant world of the sari, they are invited to explore India's multifaceted culture, tradition and innovation. Through this exhibition, the sari emerges as not just a piece of clothing but a canvas for creativity, a symbol of identity and a testament to the enduring power of design.

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