Artist Profiles

Artist:

The Red Sari

Region:

South and Central Asia

Country:

Nepal

Organization:

The Red Sari

Media/General:

Textiles

Medium of Work:

Felted saris, shawls, scarves, and purses

Year(s) Attended:

Santa Fe: 2017, 2018

About:

The Red Sari encompasses the spirit of giving back. On the streets of Paknajol, a majestic neighborhood within the ancient city of Kathmandu, the organization’s American-born founder Julie West began selecting damaged vintage silk saris suitable for felting. From this point on, Julie put her energy into creating a production center and successful social enterprise, turning the recycled saris into a gorgeous and wearable line of accessories.

Julie’s felted vintage sari scarves have become the Red Sari’s signature product; their artisans handcraft each and every piece, which involves fusing wool fibers with vintage tissue silk saris. Julie explains, “We’re taking women’s garments that are damaged, stained, and going to be thrown away and reimagining them as something beautiful.” Why the name Red Sari? In Nepal, the color red is sacred and powerful, incorporated into festival attire, sacred rites like weddings. Unlike in western culture, red represents integrity and virtue, a blazing symbol of dignity and strength; in fact, the first time a Nepali woman wears a red sari is on her wedding day; red is a continuous thread throughout a woman’s married life, with the tika or red dot fixed each morning at the center of her forehead as both a symbolic gesture of femininity and a protective element to guard against evil.

The innovative, time-consuming process involves multiple steps. The Red Sari is constantly experimenting with fresh designs and felting techniques. For example, their newest collection focuses on their wearable art pieces including scarves, wraps, handbags, and other products for the discerning buyer using a technique which bonds loose wool fibers onto a sheer fabric such as silk, thus creating a more lightweight, more versatile non-woven felt fabric. The Red Sari’s longstanding home collection uses the original felted vintage sari fabric and incorporating cotton fabrics for items like table runners, placemats, and pillow covers. Everything the organization makes is as sustainable as possible, meaning that The Red Sari is also green.