Ace designer Ritu Kumar says reviving Indian textiles has contributed a lot to her creative instincts as in the past she, like many others, hardly knew that such workmanship was alive.
"Reviving the Indian textiles has contributed the most to my creative instincts. Nobody knew that such worksmanship was alive; not even me," Kumar told IANS in an email interview.
"Someone who did higher studies in arts, I could look at their work purely in terms of arts and crafts. Through my travels, I discovered designs, embroideries and culture across South Asia and Europe which enhanced my design abilities," she added.
Kumar started her career in 1969 and has great understanding of traditional design and the innovative use of traditional crafts. She began with just four hand-block printers and two tables in a small village near Kolkata and pioneered the term "fashion" in the Indian context.
With an over four-decade-long journey in the industry, Kumar was also awarded the Padma Shri in 2013 for her exceptional service in the field of fashion, textiles and craftsmanship.
Her work is currently on display via an exhibition titled 'Crossroads: Textile Journeys with Ritu Kumar' at India Habitat Center.
"Crossroads is a visual representation of my travels through South Asia and Europe for a forthcoming series of publications that I am currently working on.
"These journeys have involved deep research and reflection on the textile arts of the regions and their unique histories. It is a personal perspective which is represented by my collection of archival textiles, vintage photographs, collages and paintings," the designer told IANS.
Talking about Indian textile industry, the designer said it is growing immensely but there are several handloom artisans who are unemployed.
"I have been on the All India Handloom Board to press for softening of taxes on handicrafts and handloom. I wanted it to be put in a section where it doesn't have to compete with machine-made goods. People in India definitely understand fabric but the only thing they don't understand is that why 'it needs to be complicated'," she said.
The designer said the youth loves the handloom fabric, but it's the styling that is a focus.
"They definitely want shoulders, easy kind of silhouettes and even if they are going for a party, they want to underplay rather overplay lots of things, which is why textiles is perfect for them. They love handloom as long as the styling is not complicated or difficult to wear.
"If you can style it in a way that they look fun and easy the youth are game for it. Indian generation today quite appreciate and understand fabrics, but what they don't understand is why it should be uncomfortable," she said.
So how is she going to share her design experience with new faces in the industry?
"I have archives of work, painstakingly put together and compiled into volumes that form reference material for a lot of young designers that work with us. Some of this is on display at the exhibition as well. I would encourage all budding designers to go over to the Visual Arts Gallery at the India Habitat Centre before April 5 to catch a glimpse," she said.