Malli Moggu

2020 | Kanchipuram, India

Malli moggu, revisits natural dyeing in a market with a high end product range. Malli moggu literally translates to ‘jasmine bud’ in Tamil. It is a centuries old motif that is still relevant in Kanchipuram today. Deliberating upon the importance of sustainable local frameworks through the sampling of this collection will be a practical experiment in comparing the commercial viability of both processes of production. I hoped to investigate the connection between the place the craft was born and the product itself - to understand what defines the ‘identity’ of a traditional product.

How much of the local identity and social culture is still
reflected in the designs?

Do the saris remain ‘authentic’ despite changes in the entire
process of making?


In Tamil Nadu, flower vendors sitting with huge baskets is a common sight and the strong fragrance of jasmine is the most defining experience. Brides adorn rows of tied jasmine flowers as hair ornaments that cascades down their shoulders. It is considered holy and is the most common offering at temples. It is more than just a flower being sold, it’s a way of life- an art form that is inseparable from worship, local lore, and ancient and contemporary culture.

The bud of the malli is in an oblong shape, tapering towards the stem of the flower. It is this form that was translated into a motif that was used for generations. A combination of these thoughts and elements concurred to make the final iterations of an idea to be put forth - highlighting hints of natural dyed colours on a off-white silk body; celebrating the natural colour of silk and a lost connection to a traditional motif.

The traditional motif illustrated single buds placed in a half-drop repeat. They are usually woven into the sari using jari as extra-weft
patterns. In this iteration, I aimed to draw attention to the motifs and the natural dyed yarn with the different colours. The borders
represent a different interpretation to the form of jasmine buds. 

Building on the previous explorations and inspiration images, I worked on re-interpreting the traditional form and using other elements like the leaves for the borders. The pallu design highlights how the flowers are tied together in rows and used. The following sari layouts display these various elements through different interpretations.
modified motif from the jathi malli



Dyers at Kanchipuram working from 9 am to 9 pm inhaling toxic fumes , standing in bleached water, bare feet. The callus on their hands and feet being the only visible testament to the dicomfort faced every day. It is part of their routine to soothe their skin with cocunut oil after reaching home in the night only to return to chemicals the next day.

Health risks and environmental impact is greatly lessened with the use of natural dyes as compared to acid based dyes. Witnessing the process of dyeing in reality became a driving force to re-visit the lost tradition of natural dyeing.

      The process of natural dyeing