Infusing life into India’s long forgotten art (Fashion Trend)

New Delhi, April 21 (IANS) It is tough to give a modern look to India’s age-old fabrics and crafts, but the joy of giving a new life to “forgotten” art forms is incomparable and “satisfying”, says fashion industry veteran Niki Mahajan, who is reviving the dying Lucknowi craft of Mukaish Badla.

“Contemporising the old fabric is a challenge, but it is also something I immensely enjoy. Nothing can be more satisfying than infusing life into a long forgotten art form. What is, however, truly challenging when designing for the gen-next is their desire for ‘easy’ clothing,” the 50-year-old Mahajan told IANS.

It becomes tough for designers to make space for eco-friendly fabrics despite trendy designs, she says.

“In an industry where polyester, nylon or other synthetic fabric is comfort and easy clothing, to try and market organic and earth-friendly commodities is a challenge. It is very easy to pick up a polyester shirt in the morning, slip it on and move on as it is easy to wash and does not require ironing. The kind of fabrics I use, however, requires proper care and handling,” she added.

Mukaish Badla, an almost dying craft of Lucknow, is an age-old embroidery where thin strips of metallic wire are inserted into the fabric and then twisted to create metallic embroidery.

Considering the amount of time that goes into it, there are just a handful of Mukaish Badla craftsmen left in Lucknow, says Mahajan. To revive the glory of this beautiful metallic embroidery, the designer has set up a unit in Lucknow, where she has employed craftsmen associated with the craft.

“While organising workshops, I discovered Mukaish Badla, the art of beaten metal. It is a form of art that has been handed down from generation to generation. It really fascinated me because I had seen such beautiful work only on the robes and garments of royalty in the olden days,” said Mahajan.

Having worked largely with talented artisans from Bihar, Rajasthan, Assam and other regions of the country, the designer feels local artisans are the true treasures of India.

“These artisans, with their huge reservoir of talent and beautiful secrets, are the real treasures of India,” said the designer, who is also known for her revival of block printing and was one of the first designers to take something as simple as block printing into designer streets.

Mahajan, who launched her fashion label in 1987, admits she continues to draw inspiration for her lines from different regions of the world.

“My inspiration as well as research comes from extensive travelling in India as well as abroad. When you have seen so many diverse and beautiful cultures from all over the world, you cannot help but get inspired,” she said.

A regular at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week and with an experience of over two decades in the industry, she retails from over 100 stores globally. Some popular international stores that stock her lines are Anthropologie, Isetan, Bloomingdales, Harvey Nichols, United Arrows and Fred Segal.

While Mahajan is busy promoting Indian crafts, she believes the Indian fashion industry has gone through a “huge paradigm shift”.

“The young designers of today are more focussed on western wear. Fifteen years back, every single designer used to make ethnic wear exclusively. The market has changed drastically and so has the design sensibilities of the designers now,” she said.

(Nivedita can be contacted at [email protected])

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