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Colours of Chikan

TIMELESS, CLASSIC and chic - that's Chikan embroidery of Lucknow. It has been part and parcel of many a wardrobe of the royalty and hoi polloi. This living craft tradition has seen vicissitudes but remains rooted in the city of its origin.

Designers like Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla and others have transformed chikan into ethnic chic. Kiran Uttam Ghosh of Kimono has made it go modern. She has given it a makeover whereby the summer clothes become winter couture.

"I made a trip to Lucknow this year and was so fascinated with the workmanship. I walked through the gallis of Lucknow and met the craftsmen, some of whom are totally clued in to manufacture and sale with cell phone et al. This is an exquisite art form and I thought it will work in winter too," says Kiran who visited Hyderabad with her New Winter Collection which was showcased at Elahe in Vogue recently.

Out went the voiles and mulmuls and the pastel shades and in came georgettes, tussars and silks. Kiran introduced dark shades - black, indigo, blue, purple besides shades of rust, brick and green on black.

Kiran also ensured new styling besides colours. "I looked at unconventional things like ponchos, sarong skirts (for summer), lungis, jackets, belts for kimonos and trousers. I look at things I would like to wear. In fact I made a poncho for myself which I wore over jeans and it was a huge hit. Everybody wanted it and were willing to pay any sum for it but I did not part with it as it was the first piece I made for myself." Subsequently, she made more which sold like hot cakes. She makes even pyjamas and backless blouses which can be just tied at the back (with bunches of shells and ghunghroos on the strings) which can be worn on jeans too. Normally, she layers her georgette and silks with crepe and at times there is a touch of brocade too in the garment.

It's not just chikan on fabrics. Experimentation is the order of the day in design. Kiran enhanced the basic chikan with more detailing - with zardozi, crystals and so on. She has had her fill of sequins.

"I have had enough of the jhagmag look." Some of the kurtas have zardozi detailing at the necklines. Most of her clothes have a subtle, elegant look.

"People are looking for something unusual. There is a thirst in the market for such stuff. Either it is the cheap chikan or the very expensive high-end ones which are available. I wanted to create something different which is value for money. My aim is to play with the medium to challenge my own creativity. I use a lot of murri and shadow work in my creations."

Why is chikan so timeless? "There is a classicism and beauty, and the intricacy in the workmanship is unmatchable. It is really exquisite. The clothes can be used forever," replies Kiran.

In fact that is the USP of her line besides innovation and quality. Kiran is always reinventing herself. "I look for unusual things. There is an element of boredom and often I look to myself on what to wear next." So you know the reason for motivation. Kiran is also simultaneously working on the kilim collection and kantha on pyjamas.

Her garments (jackets, sarongs, kurtas and shirts) in the kilim collection are in various fabrics where the surfaces textured by block prints are inspired by old Kilim rugs. These motifs are imaginatively positioned on the dress. This kind of usage imparts a rustic-ethnic yet smart look.

Already Kiran is bubbling with ideas on another collection - kimonos which is the name of the label itself (the label by the way is inspired by a Japanese roommate when she was in U.K. "I love Japanese things," she adds).

Kimono tops, kurtas, baby kimonos (in thin silk) and shoes to match will feature in this.

"I want chikan to be part of my line and I need to develop it more. I want to make good clothes and connect with the clientele.

So you find Kiran Uttam Ghosh constantly reinventing herself to face the creative challenges ahead.

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