The sensuous flow of saris
Lisa Mowla's exotic and scintillating jamdani saris and her printed kota ones are all the rage for the upper echelons of society and even the middle bourgeois. She sells these items form her studio, where she paints herself, and often simply hangs them in the adjacent room, which serves as a favourite haunt of the beauty-conscious.
Her combination of colours and motifs on the body and anchal are breathtaking, out of this earth and captivating, to express the impact in a nutshell. The contrast and combinations are a sure hit for the fashionable and fussy, as well as those who sport the items for office-wear and at the end of the day hop into a casual get-together. For those who can handle a sari, which most Bangladesh women can with ease, the saris may be worn in any season.
The colours range from earthy hues to more flamboyant ones, so that the lady sporting the sari appears like some gliding peacock, casually perambulating into a room. These items are sold for a song each time, covering only a little over the cost, as Lisa takes into consideration the printing and highlighting of saris with sequins, seed-pearls, khari, gold or silver braids and silk embroidery. The saris are also of chiffon, net and delicate muslins, in pastel shades and more daring hues- to suit the time and the mood of the wearer.
The wet, humid weather, as well as the overwhelming heat of the days are all combated by the six yards of jamdani, muslin, or painted kota, silk or satin - which are all grist that comes to the mill for this expert of haute couture. Lisa Mowla has the help of her mentor, Swapan Chowdhury, who teaches her oil painting at his classes, near her own outlet. The inviting outlet is housed in a cosy home, with birds of paradise, hanging orchids and other inviting flowers in the adjacent garden. Incidentally, the flowers, trees, bushes and grass, toward which one looks out, form a soothing backdrop for the often bewildered and weary woman, who has paused to do some shopping in the range of saris for her friends and family or even herself.
As the items are often gifts for an occasion, such as Eid, marriages or birthdays, or what you will, the touch of gold in the very reasonably priced items are suitable for the evening or daytime- with hints of gold, silver or winking bead and seed-pearl highlights.
When Lisa Mowla has her sales, they are often on special occasions such as Pohela Boishak or Eid when the sale of saris are sometimes accompanied by the selling of homemade items like pickles, cakes, jams and other scrumptious goodies, presentation of folk-music in the form of bands, and other attractions to pep up the joie de vivre of the city dweller - all hemmed in by the cement jungle of the metropolis. The sale of saris certainly adds a fillip to the day-to-day existence of Lisa Mowla's friends and acquaintances, who are usually the people who rush in to buy the saris.
Lisa Mowla, who is known in her circle of friends and family as a homemaker from the days of her school and college, has had exposure to in-vogue fashion houses in London and New York. Apart from this, she scans the fashion pages and fashion houses of the Far East and India with hawk eyes and an eager thirst for knowledge for both the trendy "frisky filly" and the more reserved and orthodox-toeing adult. One somehow always feels fresh and confident in Lisa Mowla's creations.
Even when she made shalwar kameezes, earlier, the prices were invariably rock bottom so that her collections were sold out before one could almost say "Jack Robinson". Just as some of the popular women artists' paintings in Dhaka are sold out before the exhibition, Lisa Mowla's saris are bought in dozens before they are put up for formal sale for the average, eager and curious buyer.
The designer par-excellence of saris, has a selected group of craftsmen at Tangail, who work on her motifs and colours. Whatever is not sold at Dhaka is sold by her friend, Naheed Osman, in India.
Lisa combines her sari designing with catering for traditional Sub continental meals, gardening, and her popular beauty parlour. She sings and paints too. Such is the many-faceted Lisa Mowla, with her love of The Beatles.
By Fayza Haq
Photo: Zahidul I Khan