Celebrity style: Hopelessly in love with Indian handicrafts
Which is your favourite?
The rich legacy of Indian handicrafts is worth boasting about. After all, empires have been built and trade wars waged for centuries over control of the country’s exports. Even though assembly-line fast fashion has invaded our daily wardrobe, the festive season gives you an excuse to pull out the hand-painted saris and intricately embroidered lehengas from their carefully stacked cloth bags.
Bollywood seems to share the sentiment, with almost every actor from Kareena Kapoor Khan to Anushka Sharma reaching for expertly handcrafted ethnic wear this Diwali. Beyond the dazzle of those Instagram photos, is the evolution of the craft and the communities connected to it. We did a little digging in the fashion archives, so the next time you drape yourself in a silken Paithani sari like Shraddha Kapoor, you’ll carry a little slice of history with you.
Indian handicrafts you should know about
This Diwali, Kareena Kapoor Khan chose a gajji silk lehenga paired with an embellished silk blouse and a silk odhani featuring gotapatti and zardozi from the Good Earth India’s new couture collection. The delicate ajrakh printing technique on the lehenga has roots that go as far back as the third century BCE in Kutch, Gujarat and Rajasthan. The 16-step process of washing, dyeing, printing, and drying prevents the colours from bleeding. Traditionally, natural dyes used in the block-printing technique came from pomegranate seeds, wood, flowers and indigo.
Anuskha Sharma delighted in a colourful matka silk Sabyasachi hand painted lehenga, paired with an embellished black blouse and matching dupatta. Hand-painted motifs have made a resurgence lately especially among couture clients, with outsized floral motifs being the predominant pattern.
Shraddha Kapoor ditched the popular brands in favour of a purple Paithani sari pulled from her mother’s wardrobe. The Maharashtrian handloom from Aurangabad is instantly recognisable by the pallu, which usually sports elaborate peacock motifs. Interestingly, a real Paithani sari looks identical on the reverse side, such is the finesse of the weaver who has to labour for months to create just one sari. One of the most revered Indian handicrafts, this form is on the decline due to the introduction of power looms that are edging weavers out of business.
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Soha Ali Khan chose a pink threadwork lehenga, with a hand-embroidered cutdana blouse and a delicate scalloped odhani in organza from A&R by Rhea Kapoor. Embraced by Indian royalty who used these cutdana clothing to distinguish themselves from their subjects, the popular embroidery technique features stones cut at specific angles to reflect light. These stones are then sewn by hand into intricate patterns, mostly drawn from nature or geographical patterns.
Surveen Chawla’s pale pink chikankari and mukaish sari from Dolly J Studio harks back to the grace and elegance of the Nawabs of Lucknow. Some legends link Noor Jahan, wife of Emperor Jehangir, with the introduction of chikankari to the Indian handicrafts space. Patterns are first block-printed onto fine white muslin fabric, after which artisans cover up the designs with embroidery. The precise nature of the tiny stitches is what makes this technique stand out.
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With inputs from Durdana Simran