‘Chikankari’: New Lifestyle Choice of Designer, Manish Malhotra

‘Chikankari’: New Lifestyle Choice of Designer, Manish Malhotra

‘Chikankari’: New Lifestyle Choice of Designer, Manish Malhotra

by April 7, 2018 0 comments

Manish Malhotra this time on his ramp show has introduced ‘Chikankari’ in his new designer wears with a little twist to give ultra-modern look to the western silhouette, such as on lehenga. During the eve, he takes out time for Team Viva and explained that how handloom is our best lifestyle choice.
Bollywood’s favourite designer Manish Malhotra has been known to innovate within his cultural and traditional roots and specialises in soft, flowing fabrics with a feminine allure. Having worked with weavers and karigars for mainstreaming hand-crafted embellishments, he adopted the sewing and tailoring centre at Mijwan, a collaborative effort with Shabana Azmi and Namrata Goyal, who set up a trust to promote the region’s chikankari work. Every year since then, he has been hosting a fashion walk in Mumbai, hoping celebrity endorsement will draw attention to a textile heritage. This year’s edition will feature Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone as the show stoppers. The designer took time out from his rehearsals to throw some light on his collection. Excerpts:

How did you begin your collaboration with Mijwan, a village tucked away in Azamgarh, UP?

When I visited Mijwan in 2010, I was impressed by the fashion show that the girls from the Kaifi Azmi school put up for us. It was a moment of immense pride, as it showed us how far these women have come. My association with Mijwan Welfare Society has resulted in six beautiful collections using chikankari, all of which have been widely appreciated. Traditionally, this craft has been synonymous with easy and everyday fashion. When I started working with Mijwan, I wanted to push the boundaries — both for the label as well as the craft, by translating chikankari into the language of couture. This has been our biggest challenge and greatest achievement. From 40 women when we started in 2010, to over 400 today, the effort keeps getting stronger every year.

How do you intend to give your design narrative new expressions this year?

Following the label’s endeavour to translate traditional craft into effortless couture, this year the Mijwan collection will be more contemporary and glamorous.The craft of chikankari forms the very foundation — it looks as good on a Western silhouette as it does on a lehenga. The collection will relive the vintage charm of a bygone era with sheer lightweight fabrics in pastel hues, showcasing the intricate artistry of chikan embroidery. Along with lehengas, we will also be adding opulent, T-length skirts, sheer long and short capes, dresses, elaborately embroidered shoes and fringe clutches. We will be highlighting each silhouette with a burst of pearl embroidery, along with details in feather and fringes.

What are your thoughts about the designers who are currently doing costumes for films. As someone who began his journey from there, what kind of changes have you seen over the years?

I feel reinventing goes hand in hand with evolution. While I love cinema and will always be grateful for the opportunities my work in films have given me, I am a person who craves change. It is not from lack of interest but what growth would there be if everything was status quo. I love the turn both industries — fashion and film — have taken today. Back in the day, people were not exposed to emerging trends and style sensibilities. Choice of clothing was much simpler and access was minimal. But with the world becoming smaller, the current environment is seeing a fundamental transformation on how we create, consume and communicate fashion. I attribute this to the emerging technological advancements and infusion of modernity with tradition. As a result, we have a cornucopia of differently styled looks and that’s exactly what my label stands for.

People are becoming vocal with their opinions on craftsmanship as well as designs we present through fashion shows, cinema or even the global influencers we dress. Both Indian and international designers have played a significant role in promoting traditional crafts through their spectacular design vision and innovative creations — taking the textile conversation from grassroots to glamour across a wider audience.

You have said in an interview that handloom is already positioned as a brand, why do you think that is? And how can handloom be incorporated in ceremonial wear?

Handloom has taken centre stage in the Indian fashion industry today. The growing impact of social media has enabled consumers to contribute to this conscious effort and share the need for sustaining and reviving our heritage textiles and crafts across a global platform. My designs are a tribute to the quintessential Indian aesthetic as seen through a contemporary lens. The present generation is extremely well-travelled and focussed on ethics and is going back to its roots to opt for more traditional fabrics. While earlier, this was considered very intellectual or ‘artsy’, today sustainability is back to becoming a lifestyle choice. Needless to say, these crafts are finding form in both everyday wardrobes as well as formal and traditional outfits. From saris crafted in handwoven textiles to details by way of hand-embroidery and embellishment techniques, our handlooms and handicrafts have a very versatile and global appeal.

Your vision is to develop cotton couture now. Can you elaborate on it? What advice would you give designers who would want to make a shift towards sustainable fashion?

Our country is in the midst of a sustainable fashion movement. Many fashion brands, retailers and media platforms are waking up to this need of the hour. The direction of my label is representative of a new movement in the world of Indian fashion where the aesthetic mixes the functional with the beautiful; is more comfort-driven and highly wearable. My objective is to innovate while not forgetting the roots of our culture and traditions.

How do you re-interpret your designs and style to appeal to the younger and international audience?

My styles have always been opulent, modern and unapologetically glamorous. The Manish Malhotra aesthetic accentuates the wearer’s personality and this is the foundation of every collection that we create. The younger generation is evolved and aware today. Sharp Western cuts highlight traditional outfits; women are adorning crop tops and off-shoulder cut-out capes and blouses with lehengas and pants to embrace utility and comfort in style. I attribute this to the fact of blending the old with the new. Individuality is in vogue and people are more receptive to dressing according to their personality and fusing trends and global influences in fashion.

The aim of Mijwan Welfare Society is to empower women in India’s rural areas with education and increased employment opportunities. According to you, how important is it to empower women in the present generation?

My work with Mijwan is extremely gratifying — personally and creatively. The cause is close to my heart as I believe that empowered women form the foundation of a progressive society. And this starts with education. On the fashion front, the cluster is a microcosm of what India has to offer to the world. It’s a tremendous collaborative effort to enable these women to earn their livelihood with sheer talent, helping them negotiate their position in a traditional, patriarchal society. This is not an act of charity, we need them as much as they need us. Also, it’s the least we can do for the sustainable revival of the craft.

The society started with 40 women in a single centre in 2010. Today, there are 10 centres with a workforce of 400 women. How do you rate the progress?

This year, I finish nine years of my journey with the Mijwan Welfare Society. In 2010, I adopted the sewing and tailoring centre which today operates with the dual objective of reviving the timeless craft of chikan embroidery as well as empowering local women. Working with Mijwan has made me a teacher, listener and student, all at the same time. It is immensely encouraging to see an effort that started as a passion project with 40 women spearheading it into a movement that has grown tenfold.

To have an education and the right to productively shape one’s life creates the foundation for a progressive society. I am proud to be part of the effort that encourages this vociferously yet eloquently. And the sentiment is the same for all the women who are part of this; their lives have changed for the better and they see the revival of this lost embroidery technique in a new light.

We have a long history of warp and weft design aesthetics. Do you feel India is going through a revival period, bringing back our age old textiles like chikankari embroidery.

India has  a rich legacy of culture and textiles and with my label, we work to re-interpret crafts through the language of couture. The art of chikankari originated in the 17th-century courts of the Nawabs yet remains uniquely exquisite and much desired amongst its patrons today. Given the global resonance that the Manish Malhotra label has today, I am delighted to share the versatility of our handlooms and handicrafts for an international consumer base. It has been a great direction for us — one that we are proud to have taken. Bollywood’s favourite designer Manish Malhotra has been known to innovate within his cultural and traditional roots and specialises in soft, flowing fabrics with a feminine allure. Having worked with weavers and karigars for mainstreaming hand-crafted embellishments, he adopted the sewing and tailoring centre at Mijwan, a collaborative effort with Shabana Azmi and Namrata Goyal, who set up a trust to promote the region’s chikankari work. Every year since then, he has been hosting a fashion walk in Mumbai, hoping celebrity endorsement will draw attention to a textile heritage. This year’s edition will feature Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone as the show stoppers. The designer took time out from his rehearsals to throw some light on his collection.

How did you begin your collaboration with Mijwan, a village tucked away in Azamgarh, UP?

When I visited Mijwan in 2010, I was impressed by the fashion show that the girls from the Kaifi Azmi school put up for us. It was a moment of immense pride, as it showed us how far these women have come. My association with Mijwan Welfare Society has resulted in six beautiful collections using chikankari, all of which have been widely appreciated. Traditionally, this craft has been synonymous with easy and everyday fashion. When I started working with Mijwan, I wanted to push the boundaries — both for the label as well as the craft, by translating chikankari into the language of couture. This has been our biggest challenge and greatest achievement. From 40 women when we started in 2010, to over 400 today, the effort keeps getting stronger every year.

How do you intend to give your design narrative new expressions this year?

Following the label’s endeavour to translate traditional craft into effortless couture, this year the Mijwan collection will be more contemporary and glamorous.The craft of chikankari forms the very foundation — it looks as good on a Western silhouette as it does on a lehenga. The collection will relive the vintage charm of a bygone era with sheer lightweight fabrics in pastel hues, showcasing the intricate artistry of chikan embroidery. Along with lehengas, we will also be adding opulent, T-length skirts, sheer long and short capes, dresses, elaborately embroidered shoes and fringe clutches. We will be highlighting each silhouette with a burst of pearl embroidery, along with details in feather and fringes.

What are your thoughts about the designers who are currently doing costumes for films. As someone who began his journey from there, what kind of changes have you seen over the years?

I feel reinventing goes hand in hand with evolution. While I love cinema and will always be grateful for the opportunities my work in films have given me, I am a person who craves change. It is not from lack of interest but what growth would there be if everything was status quo. I love the turn both industries — fashion and film — have taken today. Back in the day, people were not exposed to emerging trends and style sensibilities. Choice of clothing was much simpler and access was minimal. But with the world becoming smaller, the current environment is seeing a fundamental transformation on how we create, consume and communicate fashion. I attribute this to the emerging technological advancements and infusion of modernity with tradition. As a result, we have a cornucopia of differently styled looks and that’s exactly what my label stands for.

People are becoming vocal with their opinions on craftsmanship as well as designs we present through fashion shows, cinema or even the global influencers we dress. Both Indian and international designers have played a significant role in promoting traditional crafts through their spectacular design vision and innovative creations — taking the textile conversation from grassroots to glamour across a wider audience.

You have said in an interview that handloom is already positioned as a brand, why do you think that is? And how can handloom be incorporated in ceremonial wear?

Handloom has taken centre stage in the Indian fashion industry today. The growing impact of social media has enabled consumers to contribute to this conscious effort and share the need for sustaining and reviving our heritage textiles and crafts across a global platform. My designs are a tribute to the quintessential Indian aesthetic as seen through a contemporary lens. The present generation is extremely well-travelled and focussed on ethics and is going back to its roots to opt for more traditional fabrics. While earlier, this was considered very intellectual or ‘artsy’, today sustainability is back to becoming a lifestyle choice. Needless to say, these crafts are finding form in both everyday wardrobes as well as formal and traditional outfits. From saris crafted in handwoven textiles to details by way of hand-embroidery and embellishment techniques, our handlooms and handicrafts have a very versatile and global appeal.

Your vision is to develop cotton couture now. Can you elaborate on it? What advice would you give designers who would want to make a shift towards sustainable fashion?

Our country is in the midst of a sustainable fashion movement. Many fashion brands, retailers and media platforms are waking up to this need of the hour. The direction of my label is representative of a new movement in the world of Indian fashion where the aesthetic mixes the functional with the beautiful; is more comfort-driven and highly wearable. My objective is to innovate while not forgetting the roots of our culture and traditions.

How do you re-interpret your designs and style to appeal to the younger and international audience?

My styles have always been opulent, modern and unapologetically glamorous. The Manish Malhotra aesthetic accentuates the wearer’s personality and this is the foundation of every collection that we create. The younger generation is evolved and aware today. Sharp Western cuts highlight traditional outfits; women are adorning crop tops and off-shoulder cut-out capes and blouses with lehengas and pants to embrace utility and comfort in style. I attribute this to the fact of blending the old with the new. Individuality is in vogue and people are more receptive to dressing according to their personality and fusing trends and global influences in fashion.

The aim of Mijwan Welfare Society is to empower women in India’s rural areas with education and increased employment opportunities. According to you, how important is it to empower women in the present generation?

My work with Mijwan is extremely gratifying — personally and creatively. The cause is close to my heart as I believe that empowered women form the foundation of a progressive society. And this starts with education. On the fashion front, the cluster is a microcosm of what India has to offer to the world. It’s a tremendous collaborative effort to enable these women to earn their livelihood with sheer talent, helping them negotiate their position in a traditional, patriarchal society. This is not an act of charity, we need them as much as they need us. Also, it’s the least we can do for the sustainable revival of the craft.

The society started with 40 women in a single centre in 2010. Today, there are 10 centres with a workforce of 400 women. How do you rate the progress?

This year, I finish nine years of my journey with the Mijwan Welfare Society. In 2010, I adopted the sewing and tailoring centre which today operates with the dual objective of reviving the timeless craft of chikan embroidery as well as empowering local women. Working with Mijwan has made me a teacher, listener and student, all at the same time. It is immensely encouraging to see an effort that started as a passion project with 40 women spearheading it into a movement that has grown tenfold.

To have an education and the right to productively shape one’s life creates the foundation for a progressive society. I am proud to be part of the effort that encourages this vociferously yet eloquently. And the sentiment is the same for all the women who are part of this; their lives have changed for the better and they see the revival of this lost embroidery technique in a new light.

We have a long history of warp and weft design aesthetics. Do you feel India is going through a revival period, bringing back our age old textiles like chikankari embroidery.

India has  a rich legacy of culture and textiles and with my label, we work to re-interpret crafts through the language of couture. The art of chikankari originated in the 17th-century courts of the Nawabs yet remains uniquely exquisite and much desired amongst its patrons today. Given the global resonance that the Manish Malhotra label has today, I am delighted to share the versatility of our handlooms and handicrafts for an international consumer base. It has been a great direction for us-one that we are proud to have taken.

Writer: Team Viva

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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