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WHO WHAT WEAR: sariKNOTsari is devoted to slow, sustainable fashions

Priya Mohan’s latest venture features a line of upcycled vintage saris

Oct 30, 2019 by Sheryl Nadler  Hamilton Spectator

Priya Mohan wears a pair of AS 98 booties from Miller Shoes


When Priya Mohan visited India with her kids, a few years back, she was faced with a daunting dilemma: she wanted to buy every sari she could see. The swirl of colours and textures in the myriads of fabrics she found there mesmerized this part-time teacher at M.M. Robinson High School in Burlington, and ignited her creative side — the creative side that has driven her to open three retail ventures that range from upcycled and sustainable clothing to repurposed furniture and home decor.

Mohan's kids brought her back down to Earth. "'You're gonna wear that to Fortinos?'" she recalls them asking. "'That's your plan?' And it's not that culturally I couldn't because it wouldn't be appropriation — I'm Indian origin. But I'm in and out of my car and I'm walking the dog and I'm doing all of these things. But I really wanted those fabrics in my life."

So she found a way. SariKNOTsari is Mohan's latest retail venture (she previously co-owned The Pale Blue Dot and Greystone Fine Furniture), a line of upcycled vintage saris she sells in her James Street North store by the same name. Mohan buys the vintage silks from sellers in India and works with Delhi-based designer, Anchal Saini, to create Western-style dresses, tops, kimonos, accessories from the sari material. 

The creations mingle on racks in her shop, that is entirely devoted to slow, sustainable fashions, next to designs by other local companies like Casa Relief and A Million Elephants.

"I like putting the shapes together and I like when you're looking at a pattern and you don't know how to make it match with another pattern, you squint and you're like, whatever colour you see is the dominant colour," says Mohan, a passionate proponent of "slow fashion" which focuses on recycling, small batches and sustainability in fashion. 

"I want to feel classy and I want to feel elegant and flowy and that people are looking at me and that my clothes aren't wearing me," says Mohan, who wears a sariKNOTsari silk Kimono-Sleeved Top with olive Tashi Versatile Pants (that convert into a skirt) from Casa Relief, AS 98 olive booties from Miller Shoes, a bead necklace by Mira Mohan (her daughter), military-grade aluminum earrings made from unexploded landmines from A Million Elephants based in Guelph, and a ring by Love & Light Jewels.

“These are actually made out of unexploded ordinance landmines and they’re made out of military grade aluminum, so they’re not heavy,” says Priya Mohan of her A Million Elephants earrings. “These artisans use this metal to create jewelry and they’re paid a fair wage for it.” 

Most eye catching piece:

These John Fluevogs … they're shoeties. They have a platform in the front and then they have a sculptural looking heel in back so even though they look quite high, they're not. And the colour of them and the texture is pretty much my skin colour and texture … and then they have a floral print on them that almost looks like a tattoo.“If it’s not doing some good for someone, it’s not in our store,” says Priya Mohan, who wears a pair of olive Tashi Versatile Pants (that convert into a skirt) by Casa Relief and a ring by Love & Light Jewels.

Quirkiest wardrobe item:

I was at the One of a Kind Show and I saw this fox fur hat and it was blue, 1960s — it was like a bouffant hairdo made of blue fur and I was like, I need to have that because life is short. And I just had these visions of myself being some sort of a Jackie Kennedy with this showstopper hat and I've never worn it because it is so out there ... it looks like Marge Simpson.

“I still want to feel elegant,” says Priya Mohan of her current sense of style. “I don’t want to look like I’m wearing my pajamas. I want to feel like I’m wearing my pajamas and I don’t want to look like it.”

Wardrobe must have:

Neutral basics. Just the under stuff that you then do up. Because I find I wear a lot of layers and it's just what makes my clothing go from season to season.

Best purchase:

Black leggings. We carry a brand here, Diane Kennedy, and those are my current favourites.

Regrets buying:

Anything that's fast fashion … I remember being in New York and going to Forever 21 and being like, oh my god, I can get leggings for, like, $2. And now I know what that actually means. And I'm appalled that I was so unaware ...

Loves to shop at:

Boutiques that sell one-of-a-kind type pieces ... I tend to wear my brand now. Not because I'm trying to advertise it or anything – because it meets all my fashion values and sensibilities … Miller Shoes, definitely … Mettamade, I love their clothing … and the Pale Blue Dot.

Ridding her closet of:

High heel shoes. They're not practical … that's not happening again.

Splurges on:

Shoes and bags. You can't outgrow a bag. And it's useful – it's a practical part of your everyday life.

 

Beauty product she can't live without:

A Hamilton brand — EKS — they only have two creams. One is called SKIN and the other one's called PAIN. And their website is called justaddoil.ca. So, you add CBD oil to it ... I use this as my face cream and I love it … our shea butter, which is also excellent. It's by Mamaa Trade.

 

Mira Mohan, Priya Mohan’s daughter, created the bead necklaces she sells in her shop, sariKNOTsari.