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The warp and woof of chikan

The embroidery of nawabs is in demand again. As her exhibition attracts attention, Renu Dadlani tells ANUJ KUMAR the latest on chikankari.



A model showcasing designer Renu Dadlani's creations. Photos: Sandeep Saxena.

THE FOLKLORE goes that to attract the attention of the king, a seamstress from Murshidabad presented an embroidered cap to him. She succeeded but other inmates got jealous and started learning the craft. Thus evolved chikankari.

Centuries later the tale is being repeated, the only difference being the customer is the reigning king and now it's the fashion designers keen to hog his attention with one of the rare handicrafts that has stood the test of time.

From this past Wednesday, it is the unassuming designer Renu Dadlani basking in her share of attention at the Aga Khan Hall with her annual exhibition of distinctive collection of chikankari work.

"Chikankari is the ideal for today's customer because looking for value for money and comfort. It is no more a summer wear, it is no longer a casual wear and it is no longer white," asserts Renu.


That trousseau is the highlight of her collection, that floral motif with multi-colour petals embellishes her designs and that the base has moved beyond thin voiles to georgette corroborates chikankari's success story.

Richness sans weight

Renu maintains it is no longer poor man's zardozi. "Brides these days want to wear something which they could wear beyond the wedding day as well. And chikankari's lightweight gives it an edge.

This, however, doesn't mean that you have to lose out on opulence required for the occasion." Indeed, all-over designs where her flight of imagination finds true companions in chikankari's staple stitches - embossed and jali emphasise her point.

Her colour combinations, placement and density of motifs on different sections of the garment and above all the ability to think beyond the obvious give her a distinct appeal in the market cluttered with paisley-dominated chikankari.

With days of kurtis over, Renu has dabbled into short kurtas, pants and the flavour of the season - skirts for the young customer looking for formal and casual wear in sharp silhouettes. "There are wrap-around skirts with all-over work and skirts and tops with subtle work to keep the youngsters interested." And the ubiquitous white? Don't worry purists, it is there in plenty.

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