Zardosi is an ancient embroidery technique handed down from generation to generation throughout the years. Hyderabad, and more specifically the tiny streets of Charminar, are full of examples of garments detailed with Zardosi. Above all the little shops, there is one in particular that catches the attention: Mohammed Haji’s workshop. Mohammed is an artist specialised in the use of Zardosi. Passing by, you can often find him working on a cloth, positioned between two wood pieces to help him working easily.
He started by helping his brother Mohammed Latif, when he was just a child, because his mother didn’t want him to waste time. Then he decided to quit school, after class VII, and started full time work. Now, at the age of 24, he has a personal workshop in Laad Bazar that he runs with just one helper. The place is on the first floor, not on the street, thus it is not so easy to find for customers who don’t look specifically for him. That is why he often took work from a boutique nearby.
Generally, his efforts are focused on blouses and not on sarees. This is due to the fact that, nowadays, sarees have become too modernised and the pre-designed sarees are really common to find. While in the past handmade sarees were sought after, in recent times, people prefer to have modern sarees combined with a heavy embroidered blouse. That is why he works basically on blouses, entailing a lower cost for the client, but also lower incomes for the artist. However, Zardosi work, even if just for blouses, is becoming fashionable and trendy: a boom in the modern fashion economy.
It is true that on one hand even the craftsmanship changed during the years in terms of material employed (gold, silver or metal) and threads used (chain, beads, lace, zari, etc), but on the other hand the Zardosi is what completes the design, thus it remained more or less the same. Every creation he makes originates from a brainstorm session with the customer, in order to satisfy their requests in terms of colours, materials and obviously the budget.
According to Mohammed, the most selected designs nowadays are orange and peacock, completed with gold, silver or antique Zardosi. He buys the materials at the city market according to the budget that the customer decided to spend. Indeed, to make one small Zardosi creation, he requires one day of work and, moreover, the materials used affects the price of every piece of cloth worked upon.
Why have we mentioned Mohammed's story? because we think that it's important to recognise artists and artisans that practise crafts in their original form and tradition!