India no longer cheap shopping
destination: Ritu Kumar
By Madhusree Chatterjee
Delhi, Dec 10 (IANS) Ritu Kumar, the high priestess of Indian
fashion, feels India is no longer a place where foreigners
come to look for the best bargains as it has made an exclusive
place for itself on the global fashion map.
put it candidly, India was always a place where people came
to buy cheap.
is changing now. Along with China, India's fabrics, designs
and textiles are going places. The country is no more the
place where people, especially foreigners, can buy cheap,"
Kumar told IANS in an interview.
The French government Monday honoured Kumar with the prestigious
Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres award (Knight
of the Order of Arts and Letters) in recognition of her contribution
to Indian fashion.
is nice to have an acceptance of our own cultural heritage,
which is what this award is all about," the 64-year-old
present, Kumar is working out of Jaipur. "I am partnering
with the craftsmen and block printers of Bagru and Sanganer
on the outskirts of Jaipur and with clusters of local weavers
who make handloom fabrics," she said.
focus is 'rangrez' or tie-and-dye, the traditional fabric
of Rajasthan, block prints and stylised 'bootis' (circular
and floral motifs).
bootis have remained unchanged over the decades. I am trying
to take the basic ethnicity as well as the roots and give
it a modern kind of feeling," Kumar said.
Nov 11, 1944, Kumar studied in Briarcliff College in New York
in 1966 after graduating from Lady Irwin College in New Delhi
has been credited with creating Indian pret-a-porter or ready-to-wear
clothes from traditional fabrics and using indigenous techniques
for haute couture.
She has clothed the late Princess Diana, Jemima Khan, Sushmita
Sen, Aishwarya Rai and almost all the winners of the Miss
House of Ritu Kumar, which completed 40 years in 2008, began
modestly in West Bengal with two tables and four hand block
printers from the countryside in the 1960s. She has experimented
with almost all the Bengal village weaves - from the khadi
of Nabadweep to the dhaga of Ranihati.
ventured into designing by accident," Kumar said with
a laugh. "In the 1960s, the concept of textile in fashion
did not exist. It was more of a subject of study."
Kumar studied textiles across the state and then the country
through its crafts - before drifting to fashion.
gave Delhi its first boutique in 1966. She recalls how all
her friends turned models for her first show at The Trincas
in Kolkata in the 1970s.
her signature show was the Tree of Life in 1989 - put together
at the request of the Crafts Museum in Delhi. It was exhibited
both in India and abroad several times. Her new perfume line
- an array of sandalwood based floral fragrances that was
launched in September - is also known as the Tree of Life.
designer loves to work with cotton. "I like the nature
of the fabric because it's natural. But as it does not have
very good drapes, it has to be worn crinkled.
cannot iron cotton into natural folds," she said.
has a few thumb rules for everyday dressing.
basically feel Indians should not be fashion victims - just
wear what you are. Ask yourself who am I and put on whatever
sits easy," she said.
women, she recommends salwaar-kameez, tights with short kurta
tops and saris. "They are the best. You cannot go wrong."
have several options, but they prefer to go by the boss's
verdict, she said.
clothe themselves according to whoever's ruling. However,
the culture has changed."
clothes, said Kumar, have not undergone radical changes despite
the 150 years of British rule.
blouses (sari tops) became different in places like Kolkata
but overall they have remained the same. In India, I think
we were not washed out by international trends, but I don't
know what will happen in the next 10 years," Kumar said.
Chatterjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)