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Chikankari - a Story of Subtle Beauty

Despite being over 400 years old, chikankari is a craft form that continues to thrive even today, thanks to its contemporary appeal. The needlework involves subtle stitches and is versatile in that it can be styled to look both modern and traditional. It adapts well to both formal and occasion wear and most importantly, is extremely flattering in any form - whether it is a simple chikankari kurta over ripped jeans for a casual look or a resplendent chikankari anarkali studded with Swarovski crystals for a wedding or festive occasion.

With dresses, kurtis, sarees and dupattas made with chikankari fabrics, it is one of the few crafts in India that can be worn for just about any occasion!

Journey Map - Western Dress with Chikankari Embroidery

Western Dress with Chikankari Embroidery

Its gossamer quality looks fabulous on both Indian and western silhouettes, as a result of which chikankari is not just among India’s hottest exports but is also a designers’ favourite, so much that it is now being called ‘couture chikan’.

Designer Tarun Tahiliani, a connoisseur of chikankari work says, "The art of using chikan is no longer restricted to Indian fashion. All our traditional techniques, be it chikan, zardozi, sequins or resham embroidery, are being combined with modern silhouettes." His signature style of using neutral palettes provides chikankari an ideal canvas to shine through. Tahiliani generously sprinkles chikankari embroidery to imbue a subtle opulence and glamour in his pastel outfits.

Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla are also credited with infusing a new life into chikankari work by incorporating it in ensembles designed for the likes of Deepika Padukone, Aishwarya Rai and Dame Judi Dench for the red carpet. 

Journey Map - Deepika Padukone wearing Chikankari Embroidery

Deepika Padukone wearing Chikankari Embroidery

Designers Muzzafar and Meera Ali took the craft a step further by adorning their bridal wear collection with golden and silver chikankari embroidery, totally belying the popular notion that chikankari is meant for casual and formal attire.

Journey Map - Chikankari Embroidery by Muzaffar Meera Ali on the Ramp

Chikankari Embroidery by Muzaffar Meera Ali on the Ramp

The global appeal that chikankari work commands has also led to it being used to embellish other lifestyle products like furnishings and accessories. If you happen to travel to Lucknow and visit one of the upmarket boutiques in the city, you will most likely find cushion and pillow cases, table linens as well as bed linens decorated with beautiful chikankari motifs.

Journey Map - Chikankari Embroidery on Muslin

Chikankari Embroidery on Muslin

The delicate designs, especially on pastel fabrics can add oodles of elegance to your decor during warm months. Of course, maintaining decor pieces with chikankari work is a tedious affair, but it is a small price to pay in exchange for the charm of the craft. What’s more, pieces with chikankari work complement just about any colour and texture, giving you all the more reasons to add chikankari work to your decor. As a result, furnishings with chikankari work are extremely popular among the discerning buyers who know how to add a touch of timeless class to their homes.

The demand for craft, coupled with the backing from celebrated designers has ensured that chikankari work flourishes in India and the artisans have their hands full with work. If you have a taste for things that are subtle and sophisticated and want to own fabrics that embody the rich heritage of our country, go and make chikankari a part of your wardrobe today!

 

Image credit: topsy, mogradesigns, news18, peachesandblush