From delving into the specifics of art history as a scholarship student to building a business that has, to quite an extent, moulded the foundation of the Indian fashion industry, Ritu Kumar’s creative trajectory is one for the books. Armed with the mission of empowering those at the grassroots through her creations doused in revivalism, her legacy spanning decades has persisted. A rich testimony to her ability to appeal to generations of changing sartorial preferences.
Her relentless pursuits offer but only a rudimentary peek into her rich repertoire and capabilities as a creative pioneer. And to shake things up, she’s also set to make a comeback on the ramp after a decade, at the India Couture Week 2023 with her collection titled ‘The OG.’ Because, let’s admit it, she was definitely the first Indian designer we learnt about in our fashion class. Here’s what Mrs. Kumar had to say, in a free-wheeling chat with ELLE India.
ELLE: 10 long years. I’m sure the industry has missed your creations on the runway. What led to this decision of a glorious comeback?
Ritu Kumar (RK): Couture has always been marketed under the Ri Ritu Kumar Collection, but we have not been on the ramp for the couture week for many seasons. We were doing shows for our revival collections like the one on Benaras Weaves and the Rajasthani Ajraks line to promote these areas. Then for three years due to Covid, there was not much on the ramp. This season, there is a sense of a revival of our efforts at the couture line over the years. We are back with our line with our own clear handwriting but tweaked to give it a contemporary feel.
ELLE: Dubbed as ‘The OG Show,’ in what ways does the collection stay true to the signature Ritu Kumar aesthetic and in what ways are there creative advancements, so as to tap into the pulse of today’s customer?
RK: I am looking forward to seeing a newer interpretation of our traditional work. This season, the legacy stays intact while the mood encapsulates today’s India. We showcase the complexity of the glittering kasab and floral kashidakari which is a part of our signature revival pieces and were displayed at the Lalit Kala Academy in Delhi in the 80s This was the first time crafts were exhibited in a venue which had only pure art, giving our crafts due recognition. We are proud to be able to continue this legacy which is reflected on our ramp of the couture collection.
ELLE: From ideation to design development and producing the final masterpiece, take us through your artistic journey when conceiving a collection.
RK: A look is identified, fabrics are created in house from various inspirations and realised in colour and texture. Then a silhouette is chosen and once the toile is made, it goes into embellishments; a process that could take anything between 4-6 months for one piece. This is done in the villages in Bengal under strict supervision by the master craftsmen and the design team. It’s about revival and telling the true stories of Indian craftsmanship.
ELLE: What does the future look like for brand Ritu Kumar?
RK: The future of couture is going to led by the wedding market, which will become more varied. It perhaps will not remain only true to Indian textiles but will definitely be using the high skills of Indian embroiderers to experiment with varied inputs to create new hand writings. For us, it will be the use of old age patterning and techniques to style the young present day millennium.