When travellers talk about India and all things ‘exotic,’ they place a lot of value on what we take for granted. Embroidery and hand-woven work is probably a good example of that ignorance on our end. What sells for millions of dollars overseas is bargained for and bought for a few thousands here. But just because something is local doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve our attention. Fighting that attitude are three embroiders from three different parts of the country.
Located in the quaint hills of Solan, Himachal Pradesh, Usha Hooda started Aaritree with her business partner Rajeshwar Singh Harika in the early 2000s. The concept of the ‘tree of life,’ signifying peace, fertility and abundance, is the inspiration behind the name. Their signature work, called aari work, includes the ‘tree of life’ pattern made with organic color and thread work.
Hooda was quoted as saying, “This demanded extremely intricate work, which the karigars were not used to doing at the time. I had to learn aari embroidery myself so that I could guide them. I sourced different kinds of silks and dyed threads. It took two years to produce a single flower or leaf that I wanted, the way I wanted it.”
Vastrakala in Chennai is one of the most well-known places in the world for embroidery work, and the fact that designers like Peter Marino, Robert Couturier, Jacques Grange, Alberto Pinto and Christian Louboutin come to them bears testimony to that fact. They have also worked with global fashion houses like Chanel, Lanvin, Givenchy, and Christian Lacroix.
They also do restoration and design work. Their most popular projects include the restoration of one of Napoleon’s thrones (which took around 1,600 hours to be refurbished), the rebuilding of Monaco’s L’Opéra de Monte-Carlo in 2005, the king’s private chambers at the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte near Paris, the recreation of Osmania Suite at The Park Hotel in Hyderabad with a heavily-embroidered bed along with rugs and cushions, and the State Dining Room at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi.
Fatema Muffadal Rampurwala
When we were told to sit through cross-stitch classes in school, little did we know that we were attempting to learn what would go on to become the next big thing in interior design. It started in Mumbai, when a company that sells Dawoodi Bohra attire, called rida, decided to refurbish its 300sqft boutique. Rida frequently highlights cross-stitch work, and the company wanted that look for their new space. Enter Fatema Muffadal Rampurwala. Architect Huzefa Rangwala called her on board, and what she did was outside-the-box in the best way possible. Laser-cut holes were drilled into cement sheets to make it work as a canvas, and then she cross-stitched the wall panel!