I hoped to drape a Kancheevaram, sling a potli bag, and pair it with moon boots. A bold and unique style statement would befit the glitz and glamour of those who make it to St. Moritz to cheer jockeys racing thoroughbreds on a frozen lake. I checked the weather forecast a few days before the event and knew instantly that the freezing temperature meant I’d be an ice sculpture in my saree before the stall gates opened – a spectacle worth a trip in itself, you bet! So, I left my saree at home and embraced a Swiss winter attire to blend in with the winter landscape, feeling somewhat underdressed for the event. As we all know, the intrinsic human motive in such spectator sports is to see and be seen in the best seasonal finery.
It was a spectacularly sunny weekend that lit up the Engadine mountains and everything around it. I mumbled to my family that the Zari work in my saree would have glistened like a jewel. At the white turf, besides the expected fur hats, cashmere, chihuahuas (yes, they are flaunted like an accessory), and down coats with branded cross-body bags, the fashion item that stole the show by its sheer numbers was the moon boot. Yes, the one inspired by Armstrong’s moon landing. I was confused – did we wrongly arrived at the moon boot fashion week rather than the Whiteturf!? However, my children reassured me and added that it was a parallel micro event, like many others silently staged around the marquees between the races. So, I strolled around to do more moon boot spotting, hoping to find a pair I could combine with pure mulberry silk and gold zari. I found one to match my Indian heritage and south Indian looks, but the more significant style challenge loomed.
How to make the saree more winter alpine weather friendly?
Thermal padding? No-down filling? Plumtech padding? Maybe have the Swiss-Norwegian brand Odlo design saree blouses and underskirts?
As I grow more environment conscious, my wardrobe and sartorial tastes are now mostly aligned to nature – no leather, no animal skins, and strictly no fur. So, I didn’t have much to flaunt last weekend. My winter jacket and shoes were far too dull compared to the brilliant colours of India. The Whiteturf is a fashion event as much as a sporting event. As I stood there watching the Europeans hob nob wearing luxury brands from head to toe, I missed the clothes and accessories that reflected my roots and made me, me. I thought of the lushness of the Kancheevarams. The ornate weaves and temple-inspired motifs. The beautiful ancient stories, both mythological and epic, carefully woven into the saris by the handed-down skills of generations of weavers. Every part of India has a rich heritage of handwoven sarees. I joked with my family that the multitude of handwoven sarees could find new turf with just a minor weather adjustment.
I read about a few Indian women who wore specially designed sarees to the Royal Ascot races last year, and I wonder if we could pull off something like that at the Whiteturf next year. In the meanwhile, I urge the big wig south Indian saree houses, the Nallis, Kanakavalli, the Sundari Silks, as well as designers in their own league, Manish Malhotra, Sabyasachi, Ritu Kumar, Tarun Tahiliani, and more, to design, produce, and ship a whole new nine yards suited to outdoor events held in sub-zero temperatures. It is a chance to find a new home for the Kancheevarams, the Mangalgiris, the Pochampallys, the Jamdanis, the Tussars, and many more. I beg for the traditional saree to be woven with a little innovation; in return, I promise to take it to greater heights and new frontiers.
On the same note, I invite all my saree-coveting fashionista friends worldwide to make it to St. Moritz next year – wrapped in nine yards with complementing moon boots – before they transition the event entirely to the metaverse.
It’ll be fun to add colour to the #whiteturf with all of you.
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