Her needle firmly in a traditional place, and her designs crossing over to the subtle and neo-modern, designer Gitika Goyal takes intricate chikan embroidery of the land of the nawabs to light up lamps this summer, finds Bhumika K.
If summer spells cool cottons and Lucknowi chikan-worked kurtas for you, you'll be surprised with what Gitika Goyal's imagination does with this centuries-old tradition of embroidery from the land of nawabs.
The designer is now bringing out a collection of translucent lampshades embellished with chikankari work — there are little bedside lamps, huge wall-mounted ones that double as art work, and tall, almost seven-foot long cylindrical floor lamps.
The rather low-profile graduate of National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Gitika Goyal, originally from Kanpur but now settled in Bangalore, has been exporting her eponymous clothing line to London, Paris, Spain and Belgium since 1998. The line consists of rather understated summery white dresses with subtle embroidery. There's even khadi-woollen winterwear including pants, coats, and skirts — layered, quilted and embroidered — in Kanpur's phooldaar razai tradition! She's also done some clothing and furnishing lines for the Indian market, largely available in niche Mumbai boutiques.
“One day I was sitting and looking at this chikan-worked curtain. I saw the sunlight coming through, and the shadows the embroidery created — it was as if the light coming through brought the stitches alive. It struck me that making a lampshade would capture this moment permanently,” is how Gitika poetically explains her latest foray.
“The challenge for me, whether it's clothing or these lamps is to go back to tradition yet make something that's modern,” she says. Like in her clothing, whites and creams are the predominant palate for Gitika in her lamps too because “white lends itself so beautifully to chikankaari, and I'm personally drawn to the colour, though now I've moved on to other colours as well,” says the 43-year-old Gitika.
Soon after she finished her course in fashion design at NIFT, Gitika lay low. “I didn't feel convinced enough of what I knew. At NIFT I learnt technique, business, pricing, marketing but it was later, when I taught at the National Institute of Design (NID), that I expanded my mind. As a result to teaching, my learning got articulated…something finally felt right. NID taught me to take time and go deep into things.”
In between NIFT and NID came her work experience at a buying house, setting up a design studio at Ffolio Bangalore, working with Anokhi (Jaipur). “Anokhi was a turning point in my life — I learnt about textiles and how something so traditional as the block print could be used in western design; I learnt about creating a collection…” She also worked with an NGO in Kutch on various embroidery traditions. An exhibition she was commissioned in Ahmedabad, “Get your pants on”, which aimed to revive over 300 different kinds of embroidered pants, set the ball rolling for her orders from abroad.
It was only after she'd accumulated all these experiences that she felt a need to start on her own — she returned to her hometown of Kanpur. “I wanted to work with a craft of my own region, and through that connect with my roots…I can't really explain my sense of loyalty,” she says rather helplessly when asked why she chose chikankaari. In Kanpur, she learnt the various kinds of chikankari stitches, numbering almost 36 — the ones still in use. “By the end of 1997 I'd set up a home studio with karigars from neighbouring Lucknow, some of them third-generation craftspersons.” She stayed on six years but realised the need to move to a larger city to be able to market her works. Even as Gitika traces the story of her journey, her needle traces the lines over the delicate jaali work, the linked stem stitch, the flower and leaf patterns filled with intense little stitches…
Gitika Goyal's lamps will be on sale at Vermilion House, 3/12, Cleaveland Road Cross, Frazer Town starting today till April 21.
The lamps, with wooden or metal bases, start at Rs. 4,500. For details contact email@example.com or call 94484-74941.