Forgotten textile and art forms make a comeback with this season's garments

A pashmina sari by Aaradhana Jhunjhunwala
Nostalgia’s influence on the world of fashion is often underestimated. When bootleg jeans made a comeback after a long hiatus, many were overjoyed at the prospect of being able to wear their favourite pair of jeans without committing a fashion faux pas. This cyclical nature of fashion trends performs more important functions too — such as making space for the revival of dying traditional crafts.


This season is seeing several such near-forgotten textile and art forms get a makeover, pulling them out of their geography-specific niches and inviting fashion-forward people to add them to their wardrobes. At the couture end of the spectrum, designer Anita Dongre announced a “special bridal couture capsule” that features pichhwai. The ancient Rajasthani art tradition depicts stories of Krishna, and is famed for its intricate representation of nature. And now Dongre would like brides to consider wearing one of the 15 pieces available, each hand-painted by master craftsman Lekhraj. Every outfit features different motifs, which in turn narrate a different poem on fabric.


Traditional phulkari embroidery on casual kurtis
“Two years ago, during my visit to Rajasthan for a shoot, I had a chance encounter with Lekhraj ji, while he was painting the walls of the City Palace in Jaipur. Intrigued and inspired by the intricacy of his work and his flawless brushstrokes, I immediately knew I wanted to give this art another form of life,” says Dongre. Each piece took the artist between a few weeks and a few months to create, depending on the size and complexity of the design. The collection is split between Anita Dongre stores in Delhi and in Mumbai. Like all couture pieces, prices remain a mystery till serious intent to buy is indicated; they will surely be astronomical.


Anita Dongre’s 'special bridal couture capsule' featuring pichhwai
Another high-end store, Paro by Good Earth in Delhi, displayed a collection of pashmina saris, created by Aaradhana Jhunjhunwala earlier this week. Pashmina is, of course, synonymous with the light yet wonderfully warm shawls made from the various breeds of cashmere-producing goats of the Himalayas — it’s a classic of the winter wardrobe. But Jhunjhunwala’s exhibition at the lifestyle store broke with tradition by showcasing the weave in the form of radiant, shimmery saris. Each sari was a unique piece, with prices starting from Rs 50,000.


Less fantastically affluent sari-wearers might be interested to know that they too can participate in this year’s trend of woollen saris in traditional weaves and colours. The Kilmora brand of woollen shawls and other winter garments, promoted by the Kumaun Grameen Udyog, has innovated by offering their classic weaves and colours in the form of saris. Made from merino wool, these minimalistic yet striking saris are available on online shopping platforms such as Jaypore. Prices start from Rs  7,990.


More casual wear crafted from a traditional textile art is seen in the form of phulkari kurtis. Saris using phulkari are available too. This technique of embroidery native to Punjab passed from one generation to the other, a community activity for women making special pieces for brides’ trousseaus. A brand called 1469 offers a range of these pieces in traditional colours, liberating phulkari from the wedding trunk it has been confined to over the years. An even wider range of casual wearable phulkari will be on display at Mela Phulkari 6, scheduled for February 9-17 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.

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