Seematti, the 111-year-old retail brand, is synonymous with silk sarees, especially Kanjeevarams — indeed, its tag line is Queen of Silk Sarees. Now, its CEO and lead designer, Beena Kannan, well known for the gritty way in which she turned around the family business, is weaving a different story — though silks continue to be the predominant theme.

Kannan launched her first luxury couture brand in her own name earlier this year. The “Beena Kannan” line is aimed at taking silks and the weaving industry to newer heights — beyond sarees. It hopes to draw in a younger consumers set, including Gen Z and millennials.

Reviving ancient art forms

Her label has created an eclectic range of generously embellished dreamy bridal wears, red-carpet-perfect gowns, evening dresses, lehengas, long capes and jackets, flowy kaftans and belted saris. Unlike the mass line of Seematti, these will be custom made exclusive wear with different mood boards.

“I am excited to introduce my signature brand, inspired by ancient art and fused with my love for silk. Beena Kannan for me is an experimental brand and a definition of modern art. Each attire is designed to create a distinct fashion statement and an experiment with new colours and concept” she said.

“With these collections, I am reviving ancient art forms such as Chettinad, Mughal, Byzantine, Jamawar. This will give the visitors a unique perspective towards fashion and its evolution”, she adds.

What she has done in the new line is to give a contemporary edge to traditional patterns and weaves.

A major challenge, she faced, she says, was the difficulty to create intricate design in weaves. “The machines cannot take the 40,000 hooks and 60,000 hooks that we handle. Moreover, getting modern design woven by artisans who otherwise work on traditional weaves and techniques is also not easy. It is hard for the weavers to get into innovation and into new designs because Kanjeevaram has certain limitations. Also, it is considered very religious and very much attached to the Hindu wedding,” she added.

The new label is showcased in a 16,000 sq ft flagship store in Kochi which has adapted an art fashion gallery concept. She says the company proposes to open five stores in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Chennai. Plans are also afoot to hold trunk shows across cities with curated designs that suit the taste of each place.

Making a splash

Kannan did a splashy launch for the label with a fashion show at the Grand Hyatt in Kochi, featuring 21 top models. Ask her why she launched a luxury label during the pandemic, and she says, “I took it as an opportunity. I found this the right time to launch my legacy brand.”

She says during the pandemic, she focused on providing customers a safe environment to shop, and even launched online bridal consultations.

When Beena Kannan took charge of Seematti, established in 1910 by her grandfather Veeriah Reddiar, things were very rough for both her and the group. She had just lost her husband, and the family business was in trouble, and there was no one to guide her in the male dominated industry. “It was definitely not easy, but I believed in my work. It’s about being unique and providing the best. I’m enrolled in continuous research, learning and networking” she says.

She certainly took Seematti to new heights and in 2005, the retail chain even entered the Guiness and Limca book of records for creating the world’s largest hand woven silk saree (500 metres long).

Let’s see where her new silk route will take her.