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Flower Power

From pret collections to chic clutches,phulkari — Punjab’s traditional embroidery — has gone mainstream

Written by Jagmeeta Thind Joy | Published: July 15, 2013 5:02:37 am

A punjabi bride’s trousseau is incomplete without it. At a time when weddings are perhaps the only occasions when women in Punjab have pulled out their heirloom pieces,the state’s prized art,phulkari,is now making a mainstream fashion debut. Bollywood’s go-to designer Manish Malhotra’s Autumn-Winter 2013 collection is an ode to the craft and the designer has given it a contemporary makeover. Elsewhere,noted bags and accessories designer Malini Agarwalla has rolled out a collection of trendy clutches under her label Malaga incorporating phulkari designs. The traditional geometric patterns in quintessential phulkari colours such as saffron and parrot green are also noticeable in the latest collection of clutch bags by the Mumbai-based NGO,Umeed,being retailed on Pernia’s Pop Up Shop. The traditional hand embroidery literally means “art of flower”.

“What makes phulkari so appealing are the geometric designs and the vibrant colours,” says veteran designer Ritu Kumar. One of the first designers to pull out the traditional floral motifs of phulkari and use them with other Indian embroideries,Kumar believes the contemporary look of phulkari has caught the fancy of designers. “It’s quite similar to Mexican geometric patterns and the motifs lend themselves well to Western wear as well,” says Kumar,whose Autumn-Winter 2012 collection had elements of phulkari as well.

After promoting Kashmiri thread and zari work as well as chikankari,Malhotra’s phulkari collection called “Threads of Emotion” presents it as never before. “I was lucky to have a friend pass on his entire collection of phulkari to me and was inspired to work with this intense form of ancestral art,” says Malhotra. The collection comprises fitted long jackets,angrakhas,floor-length anarkalis and saris. The colours are also true to the craft — such as mustard,navy blue,rust,olive and saffron. While phulkari rarely makes an appearance in men’s wardrobes,it has found interpretation in Malhotra’s collection appearing on bandhgalas and kurtas. “Aesthetic value apart,it’s also a part of Punjab’s history,” says Malhotra,who showcased a short film on the craft during his show at Wills India Lifestyle Fashion Week in March this year.

The clutch bags with smart geometric patterns in bright colours being retailed at Pernia’s Pop Up Shop have more to them than just their stunning looks. “The women from an underdeveloped area in Punjab,the Sangrur district,have made them. The proceeds will go to these very women through Umeed,” says Pernia Qureshi,designer and owner of Pernia’s Pop Up Shop. The clutches come in a variety of colours including hot pink,orange and green,with intricate phulkari work. “We will also be working with phulkari work on cushion covers and stoles,” adds Gayatri Narang from Umeed.

Using hand-embroidered phulkari fabrics sourced from Punjab,Malaga’s collection of clutches combines the patterns and colour combinations with simple metal embellishments that highlight the vibrancy of the fabric. “Phulkari is no longer restricted to just a dupatta,” admits one of Punjab’s foremost designers,Chandigarh-based Honii Sandhu. Having dressed the royalty of Patiala for years,Sandhu has paired Phulkari with other Indian embroideries such as dabka and aari on saris,jackets and salwar suits. “To keep the art from fading away,you have to contemporise it,” says Sandhu.

Taking that thought forward is Delhi-based Pavit Sidhu Puri,CEO and co-founder,Desi Fusion,which is promoting phulkari through modern concepts. Her product portfolio consists of accessories such as hand bags,phone covers,laptop bags,coin purses and wine bottle covers. “It’s ethnic yet modern. We want to keep the art form alive and make it usable,rather than something you flaunt only on occasions,” says Puri.

*With inputs from Anjali Jhangiani KP

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