What do you gift a fashion icon who also just happens to be the FLOTUS? Banarasi silk sari of course! When the former FLOTUS Michelle Obama was visiting India, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is said to have presented her with one-of-a-kind handmade Banarasi silk sari(s).
Banarasi silk refers to the specific type of fabric that originally comes from the region of Varanasi, an ancient city which is also called Benaras/ Kashi/ Banaras in Uttar Pradesh, India. Banarsi silk is characterized by complex intertwining floral and foliate motifs, kalga and bel, and a string of upright leaves called jhallar at the outer, edge of border. In the past, this precious fabric was crafted from real gold and silver threads, and sometimes it took up to a year to produce the finished product. Banarasi silk can be categorized into four main varieties: pure silk (Katan), Organza with zari and silk (Kora), Georgette, and Shattir.
Thanks to the highly skilled Mughal artisans who introduced the intricate art of weaving in the 14th century, Banarasi soon became the favored fabric among the royals and became the very symbol of luxury. While the fabric is no longer reserved for royals, the association of Banarasi as an emblem of opulence has passed down to this day. For this reason, Banarasi silk is used widely in weddings and other important celebrations nowadays.
Just as flowing white silk conjures up pictures of gorgeous wedding gowns in the West, the gleaming gold and silver brocade of Banarasi is inextricably tied to weddings and the idea of celebration and joy in India. Another interesting thing to note is that much like Champagne, Banarasi silk has also earned a Geographic Indication (GI) so that only the ones produced in the six districts of Uttar Pradesh can be legally designated as Banaras sari.
As a part of the Portmanteau Home’s debut collection, Banarasi was the perfect choice to fulfill our mission of celebrating multicultural heritage and bringing joy into your homes.