Women We Admire: Meet Namita Penugonda Reddy, Founder of Samsara Sari
With Samsara Sari, Namita Penugonda Reddy weaves together her entrepreneurial spirit and Indian heritage with a love of art, design, and textiles.
Samsara Sari is a local, woman-owned business founded by Main Line-area parent, Namita Penugonda Reddy. Her mission is “to celebrate the beauty of the Indian sari by transforming it into a modern treasure.” It’s an enterprise of the heart, in which she collects pre-owned, heirloom Indian saris and re-purposes the beautiful garments. She gives the iconic textiles a new life.
“Samsara means the cycle of rebirth in Sanskrit,” says Namita. “This concept drives Samsara Sari, a brand that transforms pre-loved saris into an original and colorful collection of apparel, accessories, and home products. Each piece is one of a kind, made from vintage saris.”
In the Samsara Sari line, you’ll find distinctive products. The brand comprises decorative pillows, scrunchies, vibrant scarves, and the adorable Taara Tutu skirts designed for children. Each of these items feature the bright colors, details, and craftsmanship inherent in the sari textiles.
Bringing Saris Out of the Closet
The origin of Samsara Sari began years ago. Namita traveled with her family to a town in South India in search of fabric for her wedding attire. It is a place renowned for exquisite, hand-woven textiles of silk or cotton, threaded with gold and silver. Artisans then make traditional wedding saris from these textiles. Namita has always had a love of the arts and she had a successful career as an architect. The artistry and heritage of the Indian textiles deeply inspired her. It was during that trip that she “began to further appreciate the richness of the sari as an art form and its cultural significance.”
The idea for her business began to take shape a few years later while looking through her mother’s closet for a sari to wear to her cousin’s wedding. Namita discovered a closet full of saris she had never seen, including her mother’s wedding sari.
Says Namita, “I decided that I would preserve a few special saris of my mother’s and wear them with pride. But I wanted to find a use for all the other gorgeous saris that she did not wear anymore.”
Owning an array of beautiful saris that never see the light of day is not unique to Namita’s mother. “There are a lot of women of Indian heritage in this country who have closets full of saris they no longer use,” says Namita. “I decided to pull the saris out of my mother’s closet—and others—to preserve a memory, a tradition, and an art form.”
A Sustainable, Woman-Owned Business
After completing a two-year business training program with the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator, she was ready to take her business to the next level. With Samsara Sari, she expanded the idea of preserving saris beyond her family. She sought to “make a difference by combining design, culture, people, and a purpose.”
Through the enterprise of Samsara Sari, Namita collects saris from women who don’t know what to do with them, but don’t want to throw them away. Working in small batches, Namita works with an ethical manufacturer in New York City to create her apparel and home decor products. The workers are paid fairly and treated well. It’s a business with a sustainable sourcing model. It also provides customers with a new way to appreciate traditional Indian textiles.
Another important aspect of her business is giving back to the community. For each sari donated, the brand gives money to charities that align with the company values, such as Covid Relief in India. It’s a mission-driven business that bridges the modern and traditional, as well as two different cultures. “We promote cultural awareness, inspire people to be proud of who they are, and give back to the community locally as well as globally,” says Namita.