Back to couture, Niki Mahajan explores Lucknowi craft
A walk into the designer's factory in the Gurgaon business hub bordering Delhi reveals the painstaking efforts of the workers. Some were busy with embroidery on colourful fabrics, while others were concentrating on embellishing them.
"I always try to give employment to my craftspeople with my clothes and this is what I am doing this time as well," Mahajan told IANS.
Work was on in full swing to make the Sep 14 show a memorable affair.
The new couture line finds inspiration in Begum Hazrat Mahal of Awadh (1820-79). Age-old embroideries and fabrics like badla work, block printing and mukaish form the essence of every design.
Mahajan is known for keeping her ensembles authentic and she has worked with artisans from Rajasthan, Karnataka, Gujarat and Bengal over two decades of her association with the fashion industry.
"It's fantastic to work with such talented people, who have so much to share," she said.
The new line has a differentiating factor from Mahajan's previous collections - her signature prints will be missing!
"I have been working a lot with block printing; that's something I reinvented. I am using a lot of old fabrics that I've used in my previous shows. But this show comes with a lot of embroidery and no print at all, something that I have never done before," she added.
She has delved deeper into bringing "rich textiles" to the ramp and she says she has used "almost 200 different types of embroidery techniques for the show".
"It's not like one collection - it is five different collections together. Not only have we used old types of embroidery, we have also reinvented them to make them more modern," she explained.
Mahajan launched her label in 1988. Since then, she has developed a niche for her label worldwide owing to her unique sense of style. For the last six years, she's been a director of the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), the country's apex fashion body.
Fashion week after fashion week, Mahajan has showcased her western creations. Why did she keep away from couture for so long?
"When I started some 25 years back, I used to do bridal wear and, along the way, I was experimenting with craft too. Also, I started taking my craft to the international market; so that's how I turned away from couture and started working with a whole lot of international buyers.
"They do not buy Indian wear and so, that's how the transition happened. We got so busy with the international market and the label caught up so well that I didn't get the time to do bridal and couture wear," she said.
With her new set of couture wear, Mahajan pays an "ode to all the women" with an inspiration like the "stunningly beautiful" Begum Hazrat Mahal.
"A stunningly beautiful woman, Begum Hazrat used her courage and leadership qualities to rebel against the East India Company during the 1857 upsurge. Despite that, nobody recognises her.
"This is my ode to women who selflessly do everything and still get no recognition. They are nameless and faceless," said Mahajan.
As a female designer, she is herself a power to reckon with in the Indian fashion scene - she retails from over 100 stores globally, and her creations find rack space in popular foreign stores like Anthropologie, Isetan, Bloomingdales, Harvey Nichols, United Arrows and Fred Segal.