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Chikankari lose traditional essence owing to increasing competition

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2017-05-08 16:00:00 – New Delhi

Designer Meera Ali at the launch of a new book 'Chikankari: A Lucknawi Tradition' by Paola Manfredi in New Delhi recently, said that it was important to give the artisans sufficient time to create the Chikan (embroidery) on different fabrics like muslin, silk, chiffon among others.

Chikankari, known for its creative blend of intricate and delicate embroidery and fine motifs, is losing its original finesse in the process of revival, owing to economic exploitation of artisans and increasing market competition.

Earlier craftsmen would spend a year on one Chikankari piece. It is obvious that the more time you give to the artist the better will be the outcome. Now because of the competition in the market, big companies and brands who pay artisans a meagre sum for the work, want them to deliver a piece in 15 days which is difficult to create great embroidery in short time.

Ali, along with her fashion designer and director husband Muzaffar Ali, has revived the traditional craftsmanship of Lucknow through their international couture brand 'Kotwara'.

The saddest thing to see was the Lucknow of real Chikankari that the entire world knows did not exist anymore. All the work that was being done in the name of Chikan was taken over by the middle man. They were making was unwearable and unusable. There was a standard kurta that came out with two straight lines of daraz, the fashion designer said.

Chikankari is a highly evocative work and emotionally charged too. It is reputed to be one of the finest traditional embroideries from India. Chikankari embodies an ideal concept of aesthetics, but at the same time it is also a paradox.

If on one hand it is the ultimate sophistication of its patrons, on the other it exemplifies exploitative practices by the patrons and abysmally low wages of the craftsmen, Paola said.

There is hardly any publication and literature about Chikan anywhere. There are probably some old records in some archives and museums somewhere. This book should fill that void.

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