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the-south-asian.com                         January  2001

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Ritu Kumar - Designing for 'Queens'

ritu_kumar_bw.jpg (14763 bytes)
Ritu Kumar (fashionindia.com)

(continued)

by

Surabhi Khosla

"Ritu Kumarís success story in fashion revolves around the revival of Indian crafts - from block prints, kasauti, chikankari to zardozi, bandhani and kalamkari." 

 

ritu4.jpg (28340 bytes)  ritu5.jpg (25264 bytes) ritu6.jpg (33139 bytes) 
The contemporary Indian look by Ritu Kumar(Fashionindia.com)

lara_blk_sari.jpg (14206 bytes)  
L-R: Lara in a black lace and zardozi sari with a '1950ís look' blouse (keralaemart.com); Priyanka in her winning mesh gown AP Photo

 

How does she feel about being the designer behind the scenes who has played a vital role in the beauty queens winning international pageants? The feeling is euphoric, she says. " It is clearly the distinctive clothing of India and our craft traditions which I use on all their wardrobes which have attracted attention and made the contestants stand out. Because of the costumes I have begun to get more and more international recognition." 

"Ritu Kumarís success story in fashion revolves around the revival of Indian crafts - from block prints, kasauti, chikankari to zardozi, bandhani and kalamkari." 

"India today is perhaps the last surviving country where the rich textile legacy is not showcased in a museum but in the hands of its surviving 16 million artisans," says Kumar. "It is the lifework of these remarkable master artisans that Ritu Kumar celebrates through her unique designs, translating ancient traditions into a contemporary vocabulary."

Ritu Kumarís association with the Miss India contest came about by chance. She was one of the judges at the Miss India contest held in 1994 when Aishwarya Rai and Sushmita Sen both tied for the first place. When they won the Miss World and Miss Universe titles respectively she couriered wardrobes to Sushmita in New York and Aishwarya in London, which were suitable for what they had become, ambassadors from India." When Aishwarya was in London, she was wearing hand printed saris at the rehearsals and Durga patch leather coats while shopping. Sushmita too posed in front of the Pyramids in Egypt wearing a Jaamdaani kurta pyjamas and met the President of India in a Bandhej suit. Suddenly everyone realized how well Indian clothes were working for the contestants."

After the grand finale of 1994 when both Aishwarya and Sushmita were crowned Miss World and Miss Universe, she was officially appointed to do the wardrobes of all the three contestants who participate in international contests. " I have since clothed 17 contestants with very well researched and extensive wardrobes. The girls come to me a few months before the pageant and require fittings, training and many sessions before the wardrobe is ready. By now it has been honed into a fine art."

" The contest runs for a month so the wardrobe has to be consistent," says Ritu. " Interestingly she says the hardest part is the everyday clothes which contestants have to wear on several occasions before the actual contest. These clothes have to create a balance between attracting attention and yet looking suave and elegant at the same time. An eye catching and elegant costume is a must to make the first impression."

Ritu's creations have also been worn by celebrities like Jemima Khan and the late Princess Diana.

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