Hand, heart, and chikankari

Apr 01, 2014, 08:27 IST | Dhara Vora

Now in its fourth year, fashion designer Manish Malhotra's association with NGO Mijwan Welfare Society will showcase a line of outfits with chikankari work made by the women supported by the organisation

Founded by renowned Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi, the NGO Mijwan Welfare Society has been working to support girls and women in Mijwan region of Uttar Pradesh through computer training centres, the Kaifi Azmi School and Inter College, and sewing and tailoring centres.

Manish Malhotra gets lifted up on the ramp by Ranbir Kapoor and Hrithik Roshan (with Ranveer Singh on left and Priyanka Chopra on right) at a previous edition of the Mijwan show

Fashion designer Manish Malhotra adopted the sewing and embroidery centre four years ago, and since then, has been working with the women at the centre, to create glamorous collections that will be showcased at a fashion show. It will feature Bollywood’s who’s who, from Amitabh Bachchan to Ranbir Kapoor, who will walk the ramp today to support the cause.

For Malhotra’s embroidery, the women work through the year as it’s their main source of livelihood. They also make incense sticks, pickles, etc.

“Four years ago, when Shabana (Azmi, Kaifi Azmi’s daughter) told me about this initiative, we decided to do a show where design students created designs and outfits for the show, which I style, monitor and curate. Seeing their passion, I decided to take over the 40 girls at the NGO under my guidance and give them regular work. I went to Mijwan to meet them and assured them that if they did good work, I would ensure that their efforts are well-monitored, and the garments are displayed during fashion weeks for stars to wear them. This motivated the girls to another level,” says Malhotra. Today, there are over 150 women workers and computer centres. Malhotra also supports the NGO by paying them a regular sum to ensure these girls’ skills are enhanced.

The outfits for the show are co-created by Malhotra and the women from the centre. The fabrics are dyed and designed at the Manish Malhotra’s atelier and sent to Mijwan where the girls take three-four months to create hand embroidered garments including sarees and sherwanis, among others. Once the pieces are ready with the intricate hand embroidery, they are returned to Malhotra’s team for bleaching, re-dyeing and removing stains. After nine to 10 months of hard work, these fabrics are turned into constructive garments.

“Kaifi Azmi believed that real progress occurs only if we empower rural India, where 80% of our population lives, with a focus on the girl child and women. When we began, we had one embroidery centre in Mijwan. Today, we have 10 centres across UP, and counting,” informs Azmi. She adds that the girls and women now have a livelihood because of which their status within the family has changed. “They are saying no to marriage before the age of 18 and have opened bank accounts in their names. Manish’s association has pulled the girls out of oblivion and brought their craft to the doorstep of Bollywood stars and international models, including Naomi Campbell,” says Azmi, proudly.

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