We’re moving into an era where we understand the impact of fashion: less is more and we don’t want options galore. In fact, as long as we have our few trusted basics and fundamentals in place, that’s really all we need. ‘Essentials’ was a term used sparingly in the pandemic. But when it comes to wardrobes, what truly makes an essential? For those who prefer slow to fast fashion, you needn’t look much further than London-based Indian label, Varana. The brand rooted in contemporary classics serves up silhouettes that are simple but refined, crafted with traditional techniques with the utmost care. Think clean lines constructed in neutral tones.
With its flagship store on Dover Street in London, the label is global in its cultural approach, but Indian at its heart. The label employs craftsmen from across the length and breadth of India, enabling traditional methods to live on in more contemporary silhouettes suited to our chameleonic modern-day wardrobes.
We spoke with Sujata Keshavan, founder and creative director of Varana.
How do you marry Indian craft techniques into the contemporary look and feel of the label?
Varana’s pared back aesthetic is modern and timeless, with a refinement of excess. So even when we work with our karigars, we do not use the traditional decorative patterns and motifs that they are accustomed to. We suggest new, more contemporary design language that they can work on while using the same skills that introduces new challenges for the karigars and gives the craft new relevance.
Your label works on ‘annual concepts’ instead of the usual two seasons a year. Why?
An annual concept enables us to explore an idea across all four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. This could also be because of my background in graphic design which tends to be more conceptual.
What was on your mood board for Varana’s latest annual concept?
For the Lanka theme, we tried to capture the lush verdant, vivid tropical greens of the island for spring; the Jami mosque reinterpreted for high summer, and a schoolgirl blue and white gingham rendered in handloom for pre-fall, and ending with a tropical Lanka sunset for winter.
Varana works with craftsmen across India. What are some of the craft clusters you work with? Any interesting textile interventions your brand has worked on lately?
We work with different techniques and artisans depending on the concept. We don’t use the same technique every time. From pashmina and knitted cashmere in the Himalaya, to Jamdani and handloom silk weaving in Bengal, everywhere we work with the most highly skilled weavers, printers and dyers, where one fabric passes through different hands in different geographies. For example, the yarn could be spun in one region, dyed in another and woven in a third. This makes our bespoke fabrics unique and hard to replicate.
What according to you, are three must haves essentials in every wardrobe?
A crisp, white cotton shirt with interesting detail, one of Varana’s light cashmere sweaters, and a panelled pleat skirt
Shop the Varana's newest drop here.