Exotic Indian embroidery

Exotic Indian embroidery


What sets an Indian garment apart from the rest? It is the exotic embroidery. It continues to be an element that’s identifiably Indian, and as any overseas designer would readily acknowledge, it cannot be replicated elsewhere.

Artistic: ‘Zardozi’ and ‘chikankari’ styles of embroidery.It is the skill and finesse that goes into embroidery that gives an Indian garment its distinctive look.

Of the different types of embroidery that’s generally done in India, zardozi happens to be the most popular among the designers. Traditionally, it used to be executed in gold and silver threads (salma and sitara respectively) on rich textiles like silk and velvet. But today, for a salwar-kameez or jacket, plain silk thread is used, and instead of patterns stamped from wooden blocks, impressions are made with gum and chalk from paper stencils. The embroidery is done by hand using needles of different sizes.

Often, readymade designs with names such as nakshi, sadi, kora and kangani are stitched on to form a variety of zardozi patterns. This material is sold by weight and is available in grouped sections or bunches known as lachhis, held together by a fine string.

Then there is chikankari. The most significant development in this form of embroidery is that craftsmen now cater to the demands of the fashion industry. Designers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla discovered this when they went to Lucknow to get some chikankari embroidery done. Much to their amazement, they found craftsmen not only willing to experiment with newer fabrics like chiffon, but also innovate on their technique.

The change in attitude and a sense of professionalism among the younger generation of chikankari workers have made them hot property in the Bombay fashion mart. In fact, chikan work has become a “highly evolved” form of embroidery, lending itself to crinkled cottons, applique and clothes with tassels!

In her recent collection of temple sarees, Anjana Kapoor applied chikan embroidery on silk for the border. Crinkled lehngas, short cotton kurtas and knee-length skirts also celebrated this ancient embroidery tradition.

Phulkari and bidri are two other types of embroidery undergoing a revival of sorts. Nimisha Gokhale had her wedding line of body-hugging kurtis and long skirts in jewel tones with satin applique emphasised with phulkari and sali (or tube work).

On bidri work, the most notable collection comes from Renu Jolly with her range of ‘cocktail sarees’, cholis, kurtas and salwar-kameez ensembles. Then there are certain embroidery forms involving mirrors, beads, stones and shells. India is indeed home to exotic types of embroideries.

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