Ritu Kumar on how folks mistook her saris for his or her ‘grandmother’s mattress covers’


I used to be all the time a designer and an artist, by no means actually a dressmaker. I had by no means even considered it. I went to America on a scholarship, got here again to Calcutta and took up museology. I used to be despatched as a part of the faculty programme to an archaeological website outdoors Calcutta. That was the primary time I noticed rural Bengal. We stayed there whereas the dig was happening. Seeing the immense expertise there, I realised it will be egocentric of me to easily information folks in galleries by turning into a museologist. And that’s what began it off. I used to be not a dressmaker. I nonetheless am not. I don’t know what that time period means. At greatest, I’d say I’m a stylist, and I’m an excellent stylist.

Vogue in India has lengthy been dictated by Paris, New York and the western world. Slowly, what had occurred was that the majority of our nation misplaced its identification; its crafts had been in museums. And folks had been all carrying the identical prescribed clothes that was coming from the west. Eight or 10 years after I began my work, I used to be apprehensive that we might go the identical route. As a result of the entire thing is so deeply rooted, with some huge cash concerned, and with so some ways of reaching out to the shopper. So how can anyone with a robust natural handwriting have an opportunity in India? In any case, fortunately for me (possibly it was destiny) I found an space the place hand-block printing was accomplished. They now not did it and burnt their blocks someplace in Serampore by the banks of the Ganga. They was once pioneers in exporting textiles, primarily cotton, by the shiploads from India. The nation had gotten comparatively prosperous. We weren’t underneath any type of monetary stress. Issues had been going nicely. We had weaving and printing, and India was wealthy. After which it grew to become one of many poorest nations on the planet. In UP, lots of of individuals doing printing and lakhs of them doing embroidery had now not any work left.

We even misplaced contact with our designs. There was no place I may go to search out designs to recreate. And that’s the reason I needed to go to England and Vienna to re-source Indian designs. It was powerful, however I used to be very enthused and really offended, too, at what had been accomplished to our nation. So, we began printing the primary few saris. However as soon as they got here off the printing tables, I didn’t know the place to promote them as a result of there was no retail in India. So, I took this worn-down place in Kolkata for Rs200 and we put up these saris there. Initially, the response was, ‘Oh, they appear to be my grandmother’s mattress covers.’

Don’t neglect to odor the espresso and see the woods alongside the best way.

Very slowly, the weaves, the borders and the pallus lent extra character to the saris than simply the polka-dotted materials that we had been getting from Europe. After which there got here a time once we couldn’t produce sufficient. We began getting copied by everyone from Surat and Banaras, and by anyone who had a printing capability. In a manner, that was nice as a result of it reintroduced an Indian idiom into the textiles of this nation. And that has stayed.


It occurred by chance. I used to be requested to come back and decide the pageant in Goa. Aishwarya [Rai Bachchan] and Sushmita [Sen] had tied and mine was the tie-breaker query: What have you learnt in regards to the textiles of this nation? Sushmita mentioned khadi was the one natural and actual textile of India and he or she received the pageant.

Then I used to be requested whether or not I want to design for the women. I mentioned sure, on the situation that the garments weren’t going to be made in China. They needed to be rooted within the textiles of this nation—bandhani, zardozi, hand-block prints…. As soon as, Aishwarya was strolling the ramp throughout her rehearsals for Miss World in a printed purple chiffon bandhani sari. Everyone else was in denims and little black clothes, and no person may take their eyes off her. It labored as a result of we have now probably the most beautiful repertoire of textiles on this world. I misplaced rely of the lots of of women who took three or 4 suitcases of garments from us. And so they wore them with delight.


I had accomplished this work on hand-block printing in Bengal within the early Eighties, the place we misplaced the blocks that had been made. I went to Farrukhabad, discovered the block maker and we introduced again lots of and hundreds of blocks. A chunk we put collectively obtained the president’s award for the most effective hand-block printed garment within the nation. Then we did an exhibition of zardozi and that was taken all around the world as a part of India’s contribution to embroideries. We’ve got the crafts in our DNA, and I’d be very sad to lose them.


I believe one of many greatest lows was once I labored for six or seven years, researched printing, and travelled all around the world as a result of I couldn’t discover any of the blocks in India. I did an exhibition in a small room with about 20 saris. And besides for 2, which occurred to be purchased by mates, no person wished to purchase something. It was the most important low and the most important studying. What I did unsuitable was that I had printed them on the unique uncooked material that was used. After they had been printed on chiffon, which was sexier and way more in tandem with the pattern, they bought out.


Be your self, don’t attempt to be somebody that you’re not. There isn’t any substitute for laborious work. You can’t be lazy in regards to the undertaking that you’re doing. And in case your precedence is barely that it ought to fetch you some huge cash, you might be dropping out on a lot. Don’t neglect to odor the espresso and see the woods alongside the best way.


Being a working girl and managing a house and kids is among the hardest issues that any girl can obtain. Let no person let you know in any other case. Perhaps in one other life, I could not have pushed myself a lot. You don’t wish to take 4 flights per week, from exhibits in Paris to these in New York, after which come again residence to assist the youngsters with their homework. It’s all very cool but it surely comes at a worth. Consider me, daily is a problem. There isn’t any one system. No person on the planet can train you this. Your kids will not be all in favour of your work, they need their mom to be residence. So, to a big extent, it’s a must to determine that you’re doing what you might be doing for your self greater than the rest. I really feel responsible on a regular basis. As a result of after some extent if it isn’t in regards to the cash, then you might be selecting it, since you find it irresistible a lot. However I did miss out on a few years of my youngsters’ childhood. So, there isn’t any nice benefit in saying {that a} girl ought to work. It must be a selection you make. You will get equal pleasure sitting at residence and studying a e-book. Don’t exit to work when you don’t wish to. You don’t must compete, you don’t want to interrupt any boundaries.

As informed to Pooja Biraia Jaiswal

Yoruma kapalı.