Shifting to more ethical and intelligent ways of working is the zeitgeist of fashion in 2019. Slowly but surely, more brands are placing an emphasis on environmental consciousness and, as ardent supporters of sustainable efforts, we’re celebrating the brands doing just that. Each week, we’ll be meeting the brands fashioning beautiful goods with the greater good in mind.

Varana is all about redefining myths of luxury, tradition and style.

Founder Sujata Keshavan started with a single ambition: to prove just how much India can offer to luxury fashion through its textile and craft heritage. In doing so, she grounds luxury into culture; bridging East and West, tradition and modernity. But the East-meets-West cliché (Sujata herself acknowledges this) is handled with refreshing tact and delicacy
a testament to this is the opening of flagship store in London’s iconic Dover Street.

The brand’s name shares its etymology with the Sanskrit word ‘Varanasi’, variously meaning ‘river’, ‘blessing’ or ‘reward’; Varana live up to their definition by blessing the fashion industry with an innovative fusion of ancient history and modernity. But more than just a brand, it’s a showcase of multi-cultural artistinal craft. “We’ve worked with artisans from across the length and breadth of the country, from pashmina and knitted cashmere in the Himalayan mountains, to Jamdani and handloom silk weaving in Bengal, Chikankari in Lucknow, Ajrakh resist-dyeing and printing in Gujarat and wood-block printing in Rajasthan,” says Sujata.

However, due to the overwhelming growth of the manufacturing industry in built up areas of India, rural homes and communities – and their craft – are being threatened to fade into obscurity. Thus, Varana helps preserve the perennial craft; honouring the artisanal skills in local communities brings them newfound relevancy, whilst instilling a sense of pride into each artisan every step of the way.

“I have had a life-long fascination for these complex hand-crafted fabric techniques mostly found in our traditional clothing, especially our saris.” But Sujata intends not just to revive tradition, she wants to translate it for modern eyes by breathing new life into old forms, some of which date back to the time of the Indus Valley civilisation circa 3000 BC. “What is missing is an international approach to design that would make their products relevant to markets in other countries, and relevant to the lifestyle of people today,” she says. Thus, modern silhouettes blend seamlessly with ancient craft, garnering the brand a reputation of contemporary elegance.

Sujata’s inspirations are far from vague; they’re tangible and enduring. She uses the example of their first collection, Eternal Love, which was influenced by the architecture of the Taj Mahal. “We used those techniques that had been introduced or patronized by the Mughuls”. Varana also borrow floral motifs from the Taj, which embellish the pieces with distinct intricacy.

Their newest AW19 collection draws inspiration from the same Mughal period, using the Aari embroidery technique to recreate the flora and fauna of South India, and hand-painted designs from Varana’s in-house artist. “Indian craft techniques have stayed within the sub-continent and continue to be used mainly in our traditional clothing”. Therefore, as the brand grows, so will a celebration of traditional techniques yet to be discovered by the West. The scope of Indian craftsmanship is uncharted in luxury fashion, but Varana are pioneering their entry into the industry.

Shop Varana's full collection here

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Ecologically-minded jeweller Cornelia Webb

East London soap social enterprise BECO