March 20, 2013 3:09:06 am
As daughter Suhani mans her brightly decked stall at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week Autumn Winter 2013,taking in orders and showing visitors around,veteran designer Niki Mahajan is busy plotting her travels over the next few days. Only,its more for business than for pleasure. A badla workshop is underway in Varanasi,where Mahajan will meet karigars to work with them on a new printing and embroidering technique.
A shift in direction is evident from the few ornately designed pieces that lie nestled among the layers of vibrant pret outfits. Mahajan admits she is looking forward to the next few months which will see her expand in couture. I have been working for three decades and I feel sad at how our indigenous handicrafts only find acclaim once a Karl Lagerfeld or a Donatella Versace adopts them. Ive worked with badla karigars extensively in recent times,developing techniques to contemporise it and find it a new market, she says.
A variant of mokash,badla involves more intricate embroidery with beaten metal threads and can take between six to eight months to complete each individual piece. Mahajan has given the time-consuming embroidery a modern twist by limiting it on the surface of the fabric rather than on both sides to maximise comfort. While its largely limited to her couture,and by extension,her bridal line,its had oblique effects on her pret line too.
In the few months that she has begun work on this,her export orders have surged. Heavyweight boutiques such as Anthropologie (UK),Harvey Nichols (UK),Bloomingdales (US) and Aqua Girl (Japan) have commissioned bulk orders not just of the badla-embroidered ensembles,but also of her extensive block print line. Mahajan plans to unveil her rejuvenated couture line in August this year,ahead of the wedding season. With so much going on,she says,nurturing the fast-dwindling set of karigars is her prime target. The attrition rates are tremendous. In my factory,we have a capacity of about 300 people,but we still face a 10 per cent shortage every month. Its easier and better-paying for them to be a guard or a driver or even do a clerical job than toil away at a job that has limited income and little respect, she says.
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