Blue-blooded memoirs

Blue was Lady Diana’s favourite colour, says Ritu Kumar -- Photo: Murali Kumar k.  

Let us face it. We are rather obsessed with what Kate Middleton is wearing. And from one land of princes and kings, and to another of queens and princesses, it is also time to remember the people’s princess, Lady Diana. Designer Ritu Kumar hopes to keep that relationship alive, with a gift she has sent for Diana’s daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge. Ritu, one of the country’s first designers, who started off when that term wasn’t even in our consciousness, recalls her association with Diana, who wore her clothes on a visit to Pakistan. “Diana was a patron of my store in London,” recalls Ritu, who was coincidentally in Bengaluru to launch two more stores of her label. Ritu pioneered the boutique concept in India, setting up her first in 1969 in Delhi!

“Diana was a very private lady. But she would break protocol, and in fact call the store herself when she wanted to visit. She would cycle down to the store, park at Mayfair behind our store, and walk the few minutes to it. She would only request us to keep a part of the store free of customers to give her some privacy, and would enjoy browsing there,” says the 72-year-old with a smile. Ritu also recalls how Diana was into layered clothing in the 1990s and chose to wear a loosely-fitted blue salwar kameez on her visit to Lahore with Imran and Jemima Khan accompanying her.

“Diana knew me as a designer and Jemima often wore my creations. We worked out what she would like to wear. These sort of things work on a one-to-one connection and I’m sure I can make that connect with the next generation of British royalty,” she says.

The blue salwar kameez wasn’t Diana’s only order from Ritu. “Thereafter she ordered a sari which she wanted to wear to the opening of a temple or gurudwara in London, and three more salwar suits. Blue was her favourite colour,” recalls Ritu saying how heartbreaking it was soon after when Diana died in the car crash. “We had sent the clothes across. I don’t know what happened to them. Maybe they are there in the royal archives,” she shrugs.

With Kate Middleton’s India visit, Ritu had suggested to the High Commission that she wear an “updated” version of Diana’s royal blue suit — “I wanted to send it as a gift. This one has tights in place of the loose pajamas and a fitted blue kurta, unlike Diana’s loose one. I completed the look with a large scarf in chinon. The gift is now on its way and will probably reach her on her way out from Delhi.”

Ritu has always designed for royalty across the Indian subcontinent and lists Sharmila Tagore, daughter Soha Ali Khan and now, the latest addition to the Pataudi khaandaan, Kareena Kapoor Khan as clients. “For Kareena’s wedding, I revived the royal Bhopal Joda that was given to Sharmila by her mother-in-law. It was brought to me in pieces and we took six months to revive it. And the beauty of it was that it was revived by the same family of craftsmen from Kolkata who worked on Awadh king Wajid Ali Shah’s clothes!”

Double bill

Ritu Kumar reiterates her faith in the city and its fashion sense, by opening two stores in the city this week — on Lavelle Road and Indiranagar. The store is part of The Guild, a three-storey space that houses Kumar’s creations, art curator Renu George’s Time &Space Gallery, and Susanna Chandy Mathews’ and Susan George’s home shopping brand Xanadu.

“Bengaluru has always been cosmopolitan, with a non-specific and a non-judgemental fashion handwriting. People here wear what is ‘happening’. Bengaluru is also a very textile-sensitive city. In fact one of our first tie-ups outside Kolkata was with Bengaluru way back in the 1970s, with the same Renu George with whom I have associated again now to open this store. “There weren’t too many spaces to display my clothes and Renu offered a space in her art gallery. And we managed to run it that way a few years, offering classic white printed suits!”

Ritu says she has now deliberately moving beyond her exclusive bridal domain to create “a bit of what we all wear”. The younger line is bent towards club dressing. But it must essentially be indigenous, she stresses, with natural fabrics — “things we vibe with”.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 6:12:46 AM |

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