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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lipstick Leadership: Tales from the Sari - Swati Argade's Story!

"As young girls, my twin sister and I loved to watch our mother dress for a function before she went out with my father. We would behold her beautiful, tall frame perfectly wrapped in any one of her saris from her vast collection. My most sensual childhood memories include my sister and I burying our faces in the safe folds of those perfect pleats, inhaling the scent of Chanel No. 5 permeating the shimmering fabric.

I owe my fashion career to precious afternoons spent with my mother as she unpacked her trunk of saris. Each sari had a story. There were several stories attached to each sari: who bought it for her, who presented it to her, what was the occasion for which it was bought, where she was when she first wore it. The beautiful light turquoise sari with a saffron border her father presented to her the day she immigrated to America was stained by the vermillion her mother wore in a round circle between her eyes as she embraced my mother tightly while she said goodbye. Then there was the white cotton sari with a pale green print that her sisters often borrowed right after she ironed it and starched it. She always knew it had been worn because of the red dusty edges that matched the earth of the town where she grew up. My aunts would always return it to her cupboard, neatly folded with the hope that she wasn't clever enough to notice.

I've always loved how her saris punctuate milestones both mundane and momentous in her lifetime. Add to this the story of the silk. Every time she pulled a sari from her trunk, she would tell us whether it was woven in West Bengal or in Tamil Nadu, in Maharashtra or in Karnataka. Each sari was linked to a particular tradition that had a story, a story that narrated the craftsmandship of our native country, India. The Dhaka silk tradition was nearly eradicated when the British chopped off the thumbs of the Bengali weavers so they would not compete with the colonial silk trade. The Kanchipuram silk, the King of all silks, hails from a glorious temple town where sillk was woven to swathe the gods and goddesses in the most royal of robes. I think my first education of India's geography was told through the artistry of these weavers.

It has always been the story and experience of a person, a work of art, or a place that keeps me riveted and curious. As the child of immigrant parents, retelling the story of India and its artisans is the gossamer thread spinning endlessly through my work. The stories of my mother's saris bring me closer to her joys, pains and discoveries, and are the seeds that sprouted into my own personal and artistic 'discovering' of India, a lifelong process, granting me the fortune of a fulfilling fashion career."

- Swati Argade, Fashion Designer, http://www.swatiargade.com/

For more of "Mom's Wisdom" to apply in your workplace for success, check out my new book "From the Kitchen to the Corner Office: Mom's Wisdom on Leadership" available in local bookstores and online at BarnesAndNoble.com!

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