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A chic new avatar

Polyester-à-porter

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WRAP RAP: From small town buyers to NRIs, royalty to ramp models, the fabric is finding many new fans

Polyster was once considered a pleb fabric. Today, it has acquired a chic new avatar and can be found on the readymade racks of almost every big mall.

Not so long ago, discerning and wellheeled customers at textile stores would buy polyester saris for only one reason - to gift their bais on Diwali. The soft but tacky, synthetic fabric with its bright prints was not for them.

Today, thanks to a smart strategy conceived by Surti textile tycoons, polyesters have acquired a new market. The entrepreneurs roped in designers like Manish Malhotra and Neeta Lull to give the lowly polyester a new, more chic look.

Modern textile technology has helped smoothen the fabric's texture. And the lalas of Surat are thrilled that their fabric once dismissed as mill ka maal, is being used to create smart, branded outfits by the leading designers of Mumbai and Delhi. Polyester has progressed to prêt couture and hangs in the readymade sections of many big malls.

Biba, a popular brand of Indian and fusion wear, uses polyester in its outfits. "Surat's fabrics come extremely close to the texture, feel and fall of a natural fabric. Moreover, they are versatile, stronger and cheaper. When we work on a garment line, it is extremely challenging to work with handwoven textile. The colours tend to vary because of their unique production process. With polyester, we have an advantage - we can produce specific ranges and prints for our branded goods, " points out Meena Bindra, chairperson at Biba.

With premier names such as Malhotra and Lulla entering the polyester market, Surat's saris have moved up the style ladder in the national market. Designer stuff in polyester can be priced upwards of Rs 25, 000. Designer Surti drapes which cost anywhere between Rs 3, 500 and Rs 8, 000 sell very well not just in retail stores around the country but also in the online market.

"These designers were already popular with the classy crowd;therefore, we convinced them to introduce their signature style in cost-effective fabrics to make it more accessible to the masses. We began by giving them a business deal for a prototype which was then followed by royalties against sales. Their designs are adapted on exclusive georgette consisting of a special yarn that brings its finish and feel extremely close to pure fabric, " says Dipesh Shah, better known as Gattubhai, of Vishal Prints. His company is known for converting polyester into a classy new fabric. Smaller enterprises are picking up theses trends and replicating them on Surat fabric with ease. Teamed with brocade, net and fancy borders, arty crepe-silk sarees can now be found in the wardrobes of the rich and famous. There are floral designs for Rajasthan's royalty and vibrant geometric prints for the NRIs. "Outfits made in Surti fabric and styled by designers do much better in the market than the original collections. This is true not only for shoppers in metros but also in small towns, " confirms Pavitra Parikh, senior manager for ethnic wear, at the popular online store, Fashion & You. Polyester saris and outfits are extremely affordable yet dressy. They work very well for the wearit-and-forget-it generation because they are easy to maintain. They don't need TLC or 'strictly dry clean only' treatment. Bridal wear is another market where polyester has an advantage. Because it is a light material it remains easy to wear even when it is heavily embellished. With an array of design possibilities - from bling to subtle monochromatic tones - polyester has certainly moved up the fashion ladder.

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