How is a craft of 18th-century origin, deeply rooted in Punjabi culture, still relevant in contemporary fashion? Bollywood’s favourite designer, Manish Malhotra, was at The Philadelphia Museum of Art yesterday to showcase the versatility of phulkari to an eclectic gathering.
His Threads of Emotion phulkari collection from 2013 was displayed, along with the Museum’s ongoing exhibit, Phulkari: The Embroidered Textiles of Punjab from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection.
So together with the Bonovitz’s 19 phulkari works that included the baghs (embroidered like a floral garden), the darshan dwars (usually seen at gurdwaras) and the sainchis (rural scenes), participants were invited to inspect Malhotra’s fluid dupattas , saris and modern silhouettes, like cigarette pants and jackets. More from the designer:
How do you see phulkari being used on a global platform?
While phulkari is deeply entrenched in the cultural fabric of Punjab, it can be translated into a contemporary wardrobe with ease. Phulkari gave me the chance to work with the entire spectrum in a single design, lending each outfit in my 2013 collection an identity of its own.
This textile art, so vibrant and playful, requires an almost monastic sense of discipline. I have seen multiple international designers and brands looking to India for inspiration, and amongst them, I feel Alexander McQueen and Karl Lagerfeld will do justice to the art of phulkari , if they ever decide to work with it.
Your recent collection showcased chikankari. Other Indian crafts that need to be discovered globally?
India is one of the most diverse countries in the world today, with every region having a set of different cultures and a craft to its name. While I’ve worked with multiple Indian techniques — such as the beautiful chikankari from Mijwan to benarasi, Kashmiri and bandhini — I feel the crafts from the North-Eastern and some southern regions are yet untapped.
Crafts from Assam or Mizoram, are still not as popular as as they should be Even the crafts from regions such as Orissa or Parsi or Toda techniques have not been recognised.
What is the new language of luxury, and how do you interpret it, as a stylist to influential movie stars?
Luxury is no longer about what brand you’re wearing, but more about how you can carry even a simple outfit and still exude luxury.
How is phulkari part of the luxury story?
Phulkari dupattas were traditionally part of every girl’s bridal trousseau, and were crafted by the bride’s female relatives. Traditionally, each piece told a story through motifs inspired by flora and fauna. It takes us an average of three months to complete an outfit. The manner in which the colours flow together through the thread-work is only achieved by a fine eye and steady hands. Each phulkari ensemble is thus a coveted ‘limited edition’.
Phulkari: The Embroidered Textiles of Punjab from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection is on display at The Philadelphia Museum of Art until July 9, 2017.