While many Indian fashion brands can be credited for putting Indian fashion on the world map, there are few who have forgotten about Indians. Clothes And they create a craft of worldwide respect and recognition – Ritu Kumar’s home.
‘Mother of Indian Fashion’, craft revivalist, and directed by Design Doyen Ritu KumarEven the Padma Shri award winner, the brand’s exemplary 53-year-old trajectory is built on a solid foundation – the dictionary. Indigenous clothPrints, craft forms, and embroidery.
In an exclusive interaction with this outlet, the fashion designer looks back at her journey in Kolkata, which started with two tables and four handblock printers, 93 retail stores across the country, up to 5 sub-brands and also talks about development. Of ‘Indian’ fashion. Edited excerpts:
Have you ever considered establishing this brand, or did it exceed your expectations?
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You see, we are talking about the 60’s, which is only after independence. I received a scholarship to study art history in New York, and in the course of my studies, I realized that we had never taught history of Indian art in our curriculum. So, when I returned to India, I enrolled for a curatorial course at the Ashutosh Museum in Calcutta, where we also studied the aesthetics of Indian painting, sculpture and so on. And as part of this trip, I got to go on one Archaeological excavations In the said place Chandraketugarh, And so, as time went on, I discovered that I had probably hit a stage where I could possibly be responsible for today’s development in Indian fashion. There came the British, the Dutch and the French, and they all came Colonies Silk and cotton were extracted from Bhagalpur below the river Dhaka; I’m talking about the 16th-17th century, an era that was largely responsible for fashion in Europe and perhaps around the world. So, We did not have any book or record of what was happening in Bengal 200 years ago. So, I embarked on a unique journey – I went from museum to museum in all of Europe, especially France and England, because they were two big exporting countries, and dug out. Indian prints From their museum Which they are going to sell me for a certain amount. I brought them back, reworked them, and expanded them into the printing unit I started.
But, there was no place to sell goods. We didn’t even know where to sell the 10 saris we made. There were no retail or domestic industries. The colonial rule removed all its craft work from the country, it was heavily taxed, and they took all these prints and copied them all over Europe. In fact, there is a city in Scotland called ‘Paisley’ that was An actual rip-off, and they wrote sections on their studies.
So have I seen this happen? No What we see in India today is a miracle, but I feel that India is a treasure trove of design. Even though I did five collections I have never encountered a situation where I have no design to explore, because somewhere in this country, in every small village and town, there are unrecorded, undiscovered garments.
Are you still inspired by decades of working so closely and extensively with India’s textile industry?
Absolutely. For one thing, there was a lot of nationalist zeal when I started. Remember, (Mahatma) Gandhi used cloth as a political tool – which is nowhere – so Khadi It was something we loved. We wore khadi and kolhapuri slippers, printed Jaipur kurta and so on Jhol Went to college, and we grew up at a time when the idea that none of these artisans would work was really unacceptable, so one by one we kept doing it. The more I traveled, the more I realized what I had lost. I did Zardosi Revival, hand block printing, I did leather line and household items in Calcutta. And not just me, there was a battery of people who really put their heart and soul into it.
In the early days, it must have been challenging for a woman to establish and run a fashion brand and grow it to this size. Do you think the struggle for women in the fashion industry still exists?
If you talk about design and fashion in this country, it is a very difficult business. And when you talk about women in it, they face the same challenges that any working woman faces – children, homes, trips, and constantly having to choose according to your time. But seeing the changes in the field where I was working really gave me continuity. In Gujarat, where we were working.The woman had a bank account, she became self-sufficient. The same is true in Lucknow. These are all stories that people didn’t realize they started in the 70’s and 80’s. I think if Indian designers and craftsmen have brought it to this level it deserves it very well because it was very difficult in the day – You had to walk miles, you didn’t know where you lived, there was no phone, there was no traffic, there was no place to sell …
Reliance Retail has bought 52 percent shares of Ritu Kumar Group. What made you greenlight this alliance and how are the two companies’ visions coming together?
This happened because my son asked me, ‘How long will it run as a mom and pop shop?’ And true, because I had archives that were very large and huge, and I was using only a small percentage of them. So we got our first investment opportunity from Everstone Capital A few years ago, my son kept 2-3 other collections – One for the young, the other for everyday wearEtc., because they had the finances to carry it out. I really want to access what almost everyone in this country has learned about Indian textiles, and understand the talents of printers and embroiderers in this country, and this is not possible unless you have an alliance. You can have up to ten stores, and it has its limitations.
In the last two years, Indian fashion has changed a lot. Do you think the perception and image of ‘Indian fashion’ has changed?
When I went abroad, I realized that people were completely ignorant of India and its special role in textiles, which is very individualistic and comes from a biological root. The colonial image of India was like that of a man Fakirs And women like indigenous tribes. There was no appreciation or understanding about the draping of our clothes, or their cutting and folding. It was a colonial idea that India was a foreign place to get ideas for design. When I said, “No, we wear these things,” it was almost amazing And it takes forever to change that mindset.
And the Epidemic Definitely brings us closer to size and type Styles Which India has always worn. This was not necessary because of the structure and brainwashing; It became very individualistic, especially with young people, thanks to exposure to the rest of the world, which at the time, was buying and selling a lot. Indian impressions.
For a brand with a scale like Ritu Kumar’s, how do you address sustainability?
None of these designs are mine, I still go back in history for my collection. I’ve searched for things and resources Which has been there for 1000-2000 years. Vegetable colors Have been around and weaved, so what I have done is underlined the fact that these were masterpieces of designs from our continent. As an artist, I can recreate them, I can bring a strip of cloth from a museum in Europe and recreate it for an Indian person.
W.I started Hand block printingThere was no paisley to see, no borders, no Boutis. When I did the first slot of sarees printed in Murshidabad Silk, I had people from Surat and Benaras come to use them as designs in their mills. Suddenly, we saw Indian variants in the Indian market, so all of these have a plus and a minus.
What part of your work has made you excited to date?
On an almost weekly basis, people come to me to sell old clothes. At a time when palaces were being demolished and godowns were being emptied, people were selling beautiful pieces and moving to synthetics … and every time a lot comes to me, I am amazed at the quality, the variety and the enthusiasm. I don’t have an end because I know it’s not on the market and I want to Introduce it again. And, of course, India is a very dramatic country. We want to dress up for every occasion or everyone tyohar, Many countries do not have the capacity to consume and enjoy so many clothes. This does not mean that your size should be zero A certain age. The most beautiful sarees are worn by older women, so this is another amazing thing about this country.
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