The incomparable fashion statement in Sri Lanka’s dress culture
The saree in Sri Lanka occupies a special place in the country’s fashion culture. Believed to have originated from India in 2800 BC, the saree has gone on to achieve official status as a national dress.
While it is the regular attire of choice for thousands of working women irrespective of income or social status, our interest in the saree has always been from the perspective of it as a fashion statement and mode of self-expression.
An iconic fashion element
The saree is definitive of Sri Lankan style and that’s not just in a casual sense. Take an exploratory trip through the annals of Sri Lanka’s fashion history and you will undoubtedly find that the saree has always held prominence among celebrated creators and artisans as well as iconic individuals who loved to wear them.
Our spin on the saree
We believe that Rithihi, in its own way has contributed to the continued longevity of the fashionable saree in Sri Lanka. We are mostly emphatic about introducing the vast array of styles found in the Indian subcontinent simply because the seemingly infinite variety, hailing from different districts and states makes the prospect of shopping for a saree in Sri Lanka a sensorial adventure that is always fresh.
Kanjeevarams, Benarasis, Ikats, Bengal cottons (specially Tangails), Bhagalpuris, Chanderis, Maheshwaris and Mangalgiris, are all of the different weaves we have presented to local audiences. When it comes to styling, we are quite partial to the more traditional embellishments and therefore our creations typically feature Kantha embroidery and Chikan work as well as block prints in the vein of Sanganeri, Bagru, Ajrakh and Kalamkari.
At Rithihi, we believe that the evolution of preferences and trends is ultimately determined by the wearers themselves. The customers’ voice therefore, is something we value highly in determining our own evolution. By striking a chord between what the market desires and the brand’s established orientation, Rithihi remains a passionate custodian and progenitor of the artisanal saree in Sri Lanka.
What’s a saree worth (to you)?
The question, if asked from a roomful of people, is bound to draw as many varying answers, nearly all of them subjective in their reasoning. A saree’s worth could either be the personal value you assign to it (possibly unquantifiable) or the price at which the seller / manufacturer decides to sell it.
Because a personal value is assigned mostly following the purchase, let’s just concern ourselves with saree prices or more specifically, artisanal saree prices in Sri Lanka.
As demand, supply and logistics dictates
Like any product or service offered for sale, the commercial aspects of trade affect a saree’s price. The impacting variables however, become quite specific to be limited to raw material costs, weather in producing regions, yield of raw materials, import / currency restrictions in a country as well as the more universal point, location of sale.
Considering that our wares are primarily of silk, the prices of silk yarn in China and India have a direct and far-reaching impact in determining our saree prices in Sri Lanka. Depending on availability and harvest volumes of silk as well as cotton, prices could be very attractive to small artisanal brands like us or impossible to afford. The prevailing exchange rates will be also be crucial in deciding how much yarn we are ultimately able to bring down.
Putting a price on quality
Defining quality and assigning a value to it is a difficult task, but, one that is absolutely necessary as qualitative elements are what differentiates one saree from another.
For Rithihi, the distinction of being ‘handmade’ certainly influences and validates a premium as the time it takes to produce a single piece is immensely more. The artisanal input and degree of craft infused must also be considered as that is what gifts a saree its exclusivity and unique appeal, for the most part unattainable anywhere else.
The complexity becomes more when other variables such as the value-addition through different forms of embroidery, accreditations (vegan, fair-trade etc.) and availability of skilled artisans all must be factored in somehow. Even something as minute as the nature of the dye used can have a profound bearing on price as a saree that features vegetable or natural dyes is inherently more expensive than one created using chemical dyes.
Rithihi sarees are therefore valued on a scale which incorporates these many distinctions, an approach that is not typically commonplace in the marking of saree prices in Sri Lanka.