Fashion Friday Feature: Ritu KumarNo Comments Fashion Friday, Lehengas and Sherwanis, Wedding Saris
Welcome to #FashionFriday on Marigold Events! This summer we will bring a series of posts written by Gina Mathew, Founder of Couture Rani. These posts will feature an Indian Fashion Designer, talking about how they got started in the industry, and their unique style. This week’s Featured Fashion Designer is Ritu Kumar.
Given the breadth, depth and history of India’s crafts and textiles, it’s hard to imagine that India’s fashion industry, as it exists today, is only a little more than a decade old. But if there was a pioneer in this field who saw an opportunity to merge India’s unique design skills and textiles and turn it into a bona fide trade, it was Ritu Kumar.
Her start in the industry was as humble as it was enterprising. Before she became known as one of India’s leading fashion designers, she began working in textile design setting up shop with four hand block printers in a small stall in Calcutta. At the time, hand block printing was a dying art, with many of its artisans out of work.
An Indian Designer Label is Born
It was the ‘60s and printed chiffon saris from European mills were all the rage but Ritu saw an opportunity to showcase Indian prints on the trendy fabric. Given her background in art history, Ritu spent almost two years researching the various methods of Indian hand block printing before launching a small collection of saris. The saris were a hit and thus a designer brand was born.
As her collection expanded to include other Indian garments, Ritu opened a small boutique in Delhi, establishing the first designer retail store in India. Although a formal fashion industry did not yet exist in the country, Ritu laid the ground work to establish fashion design as an independent trade apart from the mass produced, commercial apparel being churned out by the various factories and mills in India.
Ritu Kumar’s Style
Following her success with block printing, which continues to be an important element in her collections, Ritu turned her attention to the revival of India’s other vanishing arts like handloom and embroidery. Zardozi, a type of gold coil thread embroidery, had essentially disappeared as a trade before Ritu revitalized the craft and made it fashionable by using it in her designs. It’s impossible now to imagine a bridal sari or lehenga without various types of intricate zardozi work.
Ritu Kumar’s Legacy
With a career spanning more than forty years, Ritu’s legacy as a designer will undoubtedly be her tireless work to revive and preserve India’s craft and textile industries. Fittingly, Ritu Kumar’s name is the one most associated with Indian fashion and her designs are reflective of her passion for India’s textile and embroidery heritage. And more than any other designer, her modern interpretation of traditional techniques has helped define Indian fashion to the world.
Couture Rani and fashionfellow.com