Left: The Panchvastra Collection; Right: Ritu Kumar
Ritu Kumar began her work as a designer with just four hand-block printers and two tables, in a small village near Kolkata. Today, with over 40 years in the business, she is known for her unabashed Indian ethos and her passion for traditional textiles, which she says, is our USP in the global arena. It is only fitting then that she has been chosen for the Padma Shri Award 2013, the country's fourth highest civilian award, for her exceptional work in the field of fashion, textile and craftsmanship. We talk to her about her reaction to the award and the state of Indian fashion.
What was your initial reaction when you were told that you've won the Padma Shri? Especially as you're the first mainstream fashion designer to receive this award.
It came in as pleasant surprise as it wasn't something that I was expecting. I am deeply appreciative of the fact that the government has recognized my efforts in the field of fashion, textile and craftsmanship.
Why do you think, today more than ever, paying attention to craftsmanship and textiles is so important in design?
This is the USP of Indian fashion and one which is not particularly alive in any other part of the globe. We are also known for the sheer number of people and craftsmen who are involved in the textile traditions of this country.
Left: Soha Ali Khan wearing Ritu Kumar in 'Midnight's Children'; Right: Kareena Kapoor wearing Sharmila Tagore's joda that has been restored by Ritu Kumar. Photo by: Avinash Gowarikar
What aspects of Indian design are often ignored that you would like to emphasize this year?
The rooted aesthetic of the Indian textile tradition is well emulated again for the next season.
What do you want to always emerge from your collections?
A strong indigenous handwriting.
What should be done to change the Indian fashion industry?
We need to keep it going with as much Indian talent as we can get. This is going to be the critical part of keeping the Indian fashion element alive.
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