Chikankari, the traditionally white on white embroidery done originally on fine muslin cloth was patronised by Nur Jahan, the wife of Mughal emperor Jehangir, who was herself a great embroideress. Eventually this embroidery form having Persian origin gained among the Mughal nobility with its delicate stitches depicting nature in the most intricate manner.
Since then, Chikankari has been a highly popular Indian handicraft and its pristine beauty has been used for high couture garments as well as mass market garment manufacturing having a huge difference in quality of stitches.
Chikankari manufacturing is a laborious and time-consuming process which can be achieved only in its hub – Lucknow and surrounding region, where it has been a livelihood of numerous generations passed skill workers like wood carvers, block printers, embroiderers, and washermen.
Our main vision is showcasing an ode to the most exquisite stitches of Chikankari where with 32 stitches, the karigar women embroider dreams on a fabric canvas.
After completing my fashion business degree for Pearl Academy, Delhi, I joined my family business of Chikankari manufacturing and eventually launched my own label in 2019, with our garment range mainly showcasing fine embroidery in a premium pret range.
Overtime as manufacturers in this field of embroidery we observed an overwhelming supply of cheap machine-made mass market garments selling in the name of Chikankari and misleading the consumers. Along with this there was persistent cost cutting requirements to achieve cheaper finished garments from buyers which was leading to unfair wages and deterioration of this generation passed skill. This also cause the prices of the refined fine embroidery garments to skyrocket creating a wide gap between the cheap mass market production.
How I can picture my mother (who is the soul of the business) picking up the perfect bel block to match the booti design block and never being satisfied with the ones in hand and always searching deeper in the big cane baskets loaded with design blocks for a better match all day long no matter the temperature or if it was time for lunch.
This frame also includes one dog, three hens and a couple of duck, a cat used to be a frequent visitor too in that chowk ke chappai vale ka karkhana courtyard.
I despairingly wanted the process of the day to shorten by saying “maa banke sab achcha lagta hai, sab same lagta hai, let’s move on.” This was two-three days a week for 4 years till I got married in Noida.
Maa is the one continuing to still be there in that courtyard working hard to give me that perfect setting of design aesthetics and pushing our dream to become a name, a known label, while I over here in Noida see the market need, marketing, sales, fabrication, stitching and new silhouettes.
I more often miss our mother daughter time in that courtyard connected by our love for Chikankari.
Apart from all it takes to have a finished garment in hand, the focus area as our mission is to nurture this local community of karigars, being with them in their thick and thins and promoting to preserve Chikankari to reach the next generation and the next in its truest and finest origin. Since almost close to 100% embroiderers in Chikankari being rural women, it brings us great pride and encouragement to nurture a sense of independence and upliftment among the community at the very grass root level.