Google fb32x32 twitter linkedin feed-icon-32x32

Hermes Silk And The South Indian

Hermes Silk And The South Indian

January 28, 2012
Meera Ramanathan

Hermes introduces a silk sari line in India. Clearly, they haven't met their Indian counterpart - the traditional Kancheevaram.

Hermes, the scarf people, decided to pay a tribute to India and their Indian customers by introducing a silk sari that costs about $6,100 to $8,200. Forget the price tag; the luxury fashion house is entering a precarious territory. Clearly, Hermes has little awareness of the Indian sari sentiment and has not met my mother. Although the sari is not intended for people of refined taste like my mother or her South Indian counterparts, no Indian in their right mind would buy this sari because we need our money’s worth.

Let me tell Patrick Thomas (Chief Executive of Hermes International) the art of sari shopping in India, rather Chennai. In the process let me also elucidate the exquisite weave and the brilliant glow of a Kancheevaram silk. As a girl blossoms into a woman, her wardrobe starts piling up with these ethereal silks.

At first you are blissfully unaware and do not get tangled in the convulsed yet magical world of colors, borders, designs and motifs. But with the years, you develop a penchant and are in perennial search for that nonexistent hue missing in your wardrobe. You are stubborn about the mango designs on your pallu.

Take time to visit T. Nagar, the temple of silk saris in Chennai. It fairs well in comparison to the temple city Kancheevaram. The women in Chennai know the geography of T Nagar like the back of their hand. Pick a store and they would list out the price range, quality and customer service. If you are searching for a purple sari, you will get the purple sari. Not pink, not magenta, and not violet but purple.

The shops in T Nagar are not luxury fashion houses but they know their customers fairly well. The quest for the perfect silk can leave the male members annoyed and tired. So it comes as no surprise that Nalli and Kumaran (popular silk shops) have waiting areas specially designed for the male members to relax and recoup. They are intentionally equipped with The Hindu and various political magazines. The men are summoned at the time of checkout; in fact only their wallets are summoned. The lady of the house is tirelessly rummaging through the heap to find that perfect shade with that lustrous border. Even if she quickly ducks to the neighboring shop who is to know.

South Indians have specifics when related to silks
. The sari defines their status and the weave, their taste. No self respecting south Indian who is born to my mother would wear a sari that has a border the length of a wrist band. It better be as wide as the Panama Canal! We do not walk into every store but restrict ourselves to a select few, simply because they are the ones that are entitled to the lotus feet of my mother.

When a purchase is finally made, the entire extended family is filled in on the bargain. There are lengthy discussions involving the price and the weave. They decide whether the store is worthy of a second visit. For Mr. Hermes, a sari is not just a sari, its folds carry memories, the weaving carries tales and wearing them brings a satisfaction and pride that no designer fashion can match. So you better stick to the scarves.

Photo credit: Hermes 


  • satheesh
    11.05.14 11:20 AM
    Hi we are from india kanchipuram pure silk saree manufacturer
  • Siddhartha
    07.05.12 05:19 PM
    I remember my first trip to a mysore silk saree emporium at the age of 15 with my mother. I thought, 'God! I haven't seen anyone spend this much time to buy clothes!' though i'm 22 now, owing to the fact that my mom has no daughter and i'm the youngest son, i'm still dragged along on her shopping trips. i have grown to admire the complex relation a woman has with her wardrobe. And when it comes to haggling skills and being street smart, desi women are unmatched. If it was an olympic event, they'd win the gold, and get a great bargain on the silver and the bronze :-D
  • Rajpriya
    01.02.12 09:26 AM
    Correction read as:

    Or do you think my skin color could have changed after 8 years in Germany?
  • Rajpriya
    01.02.12 09:18 AM

    After 8 years, how would they know if I had a different travel document if they did not stop me at all to ask for my document?

    Or do you think my skin color have changed after 8 years in Germany?
  • dr_idli
    01.02.12 03:58 AM
    @ Rajpriya : after 8 years , did the change in car or the change in travel documents bring about the change in attitude ? Just wondering ?
  • Rajpriya
    31.01.12 04:48 AM
    @Meera: There are very few German housewives who do not own or do not drive a car. My South Indian born wife is one of them.

    Almost every German household has at least two cars. Where changing cars are concerned Germans are a race apart. There are housewives married to well employed or rich German men driving around in expensive sports cars and heavy jeep types even to go to a town few kilometers away to buy groceries.

    Compared to them my wife gives me no competition at all in shopping for cars. I think it is only reasonable and cheaper to spend some money on buying Sarees she likes rather than buy expensive sports cars.

    When I first went to Germany I lived in a village on the border to Holland. There were no Schengen states at that time. Because I could not afford a new car I own a second hand Mercedes (already 16 years old) for which I had paid 400 deutsche marks.

    At the bottom of all four doors there were holes due to rust. There was a visa requirement to enter Holland or any other neighboring country. Even though I had the visa I was always stopped and the car thoroughly searched. It took almost 8 years to save up for a new car.

    There I was for the first time in Germany driving my own new car and crossing the border to Holland. You won’t believe they just waved me to drive on and never again was I stopped.

    So you see the world respects people who put on a show and no more immigration melodrama.
  • Meera
    30.01.12 08:56 PM
    @Priya Sreeram: Although I don't think they are condescending but I feel like kicking the folks lining to buy this.

    @Writerzblock: How I wish I could buy that ticket for myself :)

    @DeeKay: ROTFL @ Polyester curtain. Isn't it good to have men at your beck and call when you can indulge in retail therapy :)

    @Harry: Even the aunties won't get succumbed in this hogwash purchase

    @SandhyaK: Oh! How we demand? :)

    @dr_idli: T Nagar is the mecca but there are so many other exploits and you do get those famed cottons!

    @Rajpriya: Its amazing the way your wife and you compete with shopping :)
  • Rajpriya
    30.01.12 09:18 AM

    If you were a car crazy guy like me and living in Germany you will let your wife to be, read this post because all four major car manufacturers Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen offer you the best discounts for the latest models for your two year old one and the best way to keep up with the Jones’ and a 7 year old car may have no great value.

    Going about in the latest car models you would naturally want your “wife to be” dressed in the best of Sarees as well. Oh yes! You will certainly will get Benares Silk and Oriya Silk in the south.

    If you need some North Indian beadwork, stonework, Zardosi, etc., you could try Mokshaa and Gotewala's on Cathedral Road? If you intend to go to less crowded, less chaotic and quieter shopping try Varsidhi, RaiR, ManMandir and Tulsi silks.

    Open all the Sarees at T'nagar shops to have a closer look because they may be stained, dust covered at folds etc.

    There is no such thing as Monsoon sales but I am sure you will have a really messy muddy tale to tell. T’nagar streets are full of potholes and you will be walking like Egrets if it rains. Have fun trying!
  • dr_idli
    30.01.12 02:52 AM
    @ rajpriya

    Thanks a lot for the info. I hope my wife to be doesn't read this post. if she does , I plan changing my car every 7 years , tough i doubt she would buy into that logic in regards to saree shopping.
    I don't doubt there won't be benares silk , or oriya silk in the south - a even nice classy cotton ones. I'll surely pop into T'nagar sometime in the future.

    As for Monsoon sales , i've had my best buys in those times - a bargaining tale to tell :)
  • Rajpriya
    29.01.12 08:47 PM

    T'nagar in Chennai is the Mecca for ladies looking for Sarees of any kind traditional or trendy.

    Meera has given a beautiful description of this place.

    I have go to India with my wife once in two years. It’s a must on a visit to this Saree Safari at T’nagar. Her argument to go there every two years is that I change my car every two years why not she change her Sarees?

    So there you are I have no way out of it. She knows every shop in T’nagar and the history of Nalli Chinnasamy Chetti who was a weaver from Kanchipuram. That’s how she says the name Kanchipuram Saree originated. Kumaran stores, Pothys, Saravana Stores, Chennai Silks, Sundari Silks and Jayachandran Textiles are some names I know so well.

    Everywhere we go shopping in Germany, Holland or London she follows me and in Chennai I follow her.

    Just keep in mind not go there during the rainy season. Be prepared to walk through a very crowded T'nagar right throughout the year.
  • dr_idli
    29.01.12 06:59 PM
    Related to saree shopping, If i may intrude , would anyone suggest the best places to do saree shopping in India ?
    I'm well versed in bombay, Dadar is a good place , though kalaniketan near churchgate is good too esp during the monsoon sale .
    I've been told calcutta is good too . any inputs ?
  • Sandhya K
    Sandhya K
    29.01.12 12:24 AM
    My wedding saree shopping exploits are events I will never forget. I'm sure the sales ladies in Kanchipuram are still sighing over my demands!
    28.01.12 09:56 PM
    Dear GOD, have they (hermes) met Indian auntys yet, 6k-8k for a sari, are they having a laugh? No Indian women in her right mind would buy this at that price.
    But then on the other hand, women are like GOLLUM, they will do anything for nice sari.

    I know one thing, my wallet will never get summoned there. :)

  • Dee Kay
    Dee Kay
    28.01.12 09:32 PM
    I think Hermes is just looking for a bit of publicity. But I'm sure that someone with too much money and not enough style will end up buying one. The green and purple ones are ok, but the other one reminds me of a polyester curtain circa 1970.

    Having roots in the north, I've always envied South Indian woman over the incredible choice they get when it comes to saris. Shop owners can't understand it when I say that the paisley doesn't look right or it's the wrong shade of red. One day I will have to get myself to T.Nagar. I love the idea of leaving my man in an entertainment area.
  • Writerzblock
    28.01.12 01:46 PM
    Brilliant!! And made me so nostalgic. I just NEED to go to T.Nagar now!!! Somebody buy me a ticket!!!
  • Priya Sreeram
    Priya Sreeram
    28.01.12 12:54 PM
    tht's a nice read and Mr Hermes better listen :)

Leave a comment