The way forward

TRADITIONALLY worn by Indian women since ancient times, the saree has gone through a transformation over the generations. It is enjoying a revival in the new millenium, and has emerged as trendy and chic fashionable attire thanks to some up-and-coming designers.

Roovaa Lijuan, who is of Malaysian Chinese-Indian descent, is one such saree designer, creating artistic, elegant and beautiful sarees, infused with unique designs with a modern touch, in a range of colours.

“I design ‘party wear’ sarees – classy, chic and comfortable, suitable for anyone who wishes to stand out in the crowd at dinners, gala nights, ballroom events and other evening events,” said Roovaa, who curates sarees from various states in India, seen on her Instagram page (@roovaalijuan).

Roovaa’s saree collection Rafflesia was showcased at the Borneo Fashion Week 2019 in Sabah, and received many accolades. Roovaa also plans to combine her love for both art and sarees in a new collection.

“I work with bold colours with bold motifs and not necessarily traditional. I created a Rafflesia-themed saree. It has a very local touch to it and even the non-Indians showed an interest in the design. I keep it as simple as possible,” added Roovaa.

It was Roovaa’s dream to become a fashion designer from a very young age. She recalled: “I would cut my mother’s sarees to make garments for my Barbie dolls.

“I remember as a college girl, I always wanted to wear outstanding sarees for events held at the university. Instead of buying one from the local Indian streets (Tengku Kelana or Brickfields), I would always create my own.

“I would go fabric hunting at Jalan TAR, Semua House or Kamdar, and find trims which are locally available and create a saree. These experimental designs gave me the confidence to start with my own designs, years later.

“It started off with the thought of draping a unique and one-of-a-kind saree. I never liked the idea of mass-produced sarees.”

Growing up, Roovaa watched how her mother and grandmother looked graceful and effortless in different saree materials such as cotton, georgette, chiffon or silk.

She explained: “They are two very strong women in my life. I have watched them wearing sarees on important days, which are mostly work-related. This has given me a very empowering impression of sarees. I associate sarees with women being in power.

“I fell in love with the colours, texture and classic motifs such as the peacock, paisley, gopuram (the tower) and Rudraksha.”

Roovaa also named current trends in saree designs, including “comfy in cotton, or wearing very light and simple wear, belting up, which means pairing with thin or bulky belts to create a different kind of silhouette, un-blousing or pairing unconventional blouses such as crop tops, sweatshirts, T’shirts and shirts.”

Monochrome sarees – a single coloured saree with varying tones – are also in trend now.

She advises her clients to not be afraid of the effort needed to drape a saree properly. “A saree is ‘superfluid’, and it has no shape or size, which means anyone can wear a saree. It is not gender- or body size-specific. You can drape a saree in whichever way or style you want to. Be bold and experiment with your saree style,” she advised.

“If you don’t know how to drape a saree yet, learn from Youtube or attend my saree draping workshop, conducted every month in the Klang Valley.”

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