If you haven’t heard of Chikan but you know your celebrity gear, look up the outfit Judi Dench wore to the Oscars in 2004, an exquisite white Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla design, with Chikan embroidery. If you want to grab something similar (but aren’t heading to Lucknow anytime soon; the epicentre of this ancient handicraft) there’s a Chikan exhibition – Alankrit – in Dubai this weekend (Oct 14-15) at Hotel Pullman City Centre. The woman behind the exhibition, designer Manju Jalota, who has been creating Chikankari pieces for 24 years, is exhibiting here once again. One of the things she told us was that they were doing Chikan embroidery on scarves, stoles, cropped tops, skirts, trousers, palazzos, and even on shorts – a sure sign of catering to millenials.
Jalota, a former teacher, says: “I always loved wearing Chikankari. But I felt there was a scope to play around with and modify it.” Whenever she went to pick up Chikan for relatives, Jalota felt the need to have more of a choice – of colours and fabrics. This led her to women artisans who lived in the village just behind her house.
Lucknow-based Jalota has been exhibiting in Dubai since 1994. She told us she doesn’t believe Chikan is going out of fashion.
If anything, the export figures of the embroidered garments are just one indicator. International fashion houses have a great demand for this embroidery. The younger generation understands intricacies of Chikankari, and the effort that goes into making a Chikankari garment. In villages, girls and women from the ages of 8-80 are involved with embroidery.
As for designs, patterns, motifs, Chikankari has evolved to keep pace with requirements of buyers and changes in global fashion. “The design blocks that we used in the Mughal era were very intricate and tedious, and a very few artisans of today know all of those stitches. This has created a need for simpler and less time-consuming designs, and has in the bargain, made chikan affordable to all classes,” she said.
Dubai folks can check out her line this weekend; prices start at Dhs200 and go up to Dhs3,000.