Kasavu saree is the ivory-colored, hand-spun cotton saree with gold Zari border, especially popular in Kerala. Event though I own a store full of sarees from all over India in every possible shade and fabric, the Kasavu is still my top favorite. I absolutely love the natural white pure cotton handlooms. I have over twenty Kasavu sarees and two-piece sets, all with different border widths in gold and silver etc.
Many get the Bengali handlooms mixed up with the Keralite Kasavu. They may look quite similar but as someone who loves and wears Kasavus for the last 26 years, I can tell them apart quite easily. You can tell just from the color of the gold border if it’s pure or synthetic. The Kasavu sarees of natural handlooms cottons and the zari on the borders should have a silver content in the zari border. Hence the wider the border, the more expensive the Kasavu saree gets. Many would be surprised to learn that a simple Kasavu saree with a two-inch border could cost easily Rs 20,000 onwards.
Every year when I go to Trivandrum, I make it a point to get my husband to buy me a Kasavu from my favourite store, Karalakada. Even the ambience of the store has an old-world charm. The store is like a maze. It has been many different small rooms with old carved pillars and straw mats on the floor. It has hard wood selves with stacks of just Kasavu in both gold and silver borders. The gold kind is the traditional one. The silver borders are a new variation.
The variations among the Kasavu sarees are subtle, but it is always exciting to wear a brand new Kasavu. I love Onam (the Kerala harvest festival) especially because I get to wear one the many Kasavu sarees that I own. Maybe it’s my Malayalee side shining through here. Or may be it is the understated elegance of a classic attire, which is gaining in popularity in Bollywood fashion as well these days. The reigning bolly queen Deepika sensationalized this look in Chennai Express.
When combined with a traditional kasimala, a manga mala, or the Palakadu green stone mala and a pair of gold jimikis, the Kasavu saree exudes all the class and elegance of a rich heritage. The Kasavu and the traditional gold jewelry go well together. I have many clients of non-Malayalee origin looking for these sarees. I find it heartening when my heritage is appreciated beyond the borders!
There are so many synthetic versions today; so choose carefully, If you are in Trivandrum do visit the old Karalakada. Please remember to mention the old Karalakada, because there is a new one right next to it in a fancy glass building. It is my dream and hope to own a store just like the old Kerelakada with its old-world charm and traditional architecture in Singapore some day.