The embroidery style of chikankari, which originated in 18th century Lucknow, has carved a niche in the summer wardrobe of Indian women for its comfort and graceful intricacies. Once worn by the nobles and aristocrats, chikankari has stood the test of time, trends and styles. It has certainly come a long way from white-on-white embroidery on muslin and cotton fabrics – colored and silk threads are now used on pastels and bright colors of chiffon, georgette, silk, and a variety of fabrics . latest trends.
For fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani, chikankari was the only hand embroidery style that blended with textiles. Tahiliani recalls, “After my visit to Lucknow in 1999, where I met the Imambara and saw chikankari, I decided to do it. It is the only Indian embroidery that blends perfectly with textiles and does not lose its sheen in the process.”
Known for its traditional floral embroidery, chikankari has become a versatile pick for everyday outfits, office wear and festive wear during summers. It has also found its way into high-end fashion, with at least one handcrafted chikankari dress now considered a must-have in bridal wear, courtesy of Indian designers who revived the craft.
“Like all classic heritage embroidery, chikankari is a weave design that is worn by people of all ages. It was relevant and remains relevant today because of its timeless nature,” explains fashion designer Sheetal Batra.
Bollywood celebrities have always loved chikan – be it actor Sara Ali Khan in chikankari sets for her airport look or actors Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Sonam Kapoor Ahuja opting for it for their bridal attire.
Designer duo Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, who have been making a case for chikankari since the early 90s, share, “Chikankari holds a special place in our hearts and work. Abu and I have a crazy love for white-on-white embroidery. Fortunately, an impulsive visit to Lucknow in 1992 turned into our artistic Jail d’Etre. Our first chikan bride, Shweta Bachchan Nanda wore a stunning chikankari ghagra for her mehendi, which was revolutionary at the time and set the trend for white brides. ,
After falling in love with the craft, the two spent two years researching and training artisans before launching their first collection in 1994. “The process of Chikankari is long and laborious. A saree can take six months or more with many skilled craftsmen, and a bridal lehenga can take up to a year to complete,” he says.
While every art form evolves and appears in new forms, it is not without flaws. And chikankari is no exception. Fashion designer Anjul Bhandari, who is known for her chikankari label, says, “Chikankari has evolved a lot over the years. But its downside is the loss of stitches making it easier, faster and more economical. For example, what was done in one string or two strings is now being done on four strings to expedite the process without compromising on the authenticity of the craft.”
1. Silver jewelery will complement any chikankari style. 2. Short dhoti kurta set in chikankari can be worn with jutis. 3. Trending A-line suits with sarees and Dogri salwars are good chikankari investments. 4. Chikankari lehengas are suitable for bridesmaids as well as bridesmaids in summer weddings. Hence, there is no need to think twice before investing in any one.
With inputs from fashion designer Sheetal Batra