The hands that create the magic

Mar 13, 2013, 01:24 IST | Ruchika Kher

As models sashay down the ramp in intricately embroidered lehengas, crowds gasp in awe at the splendour of these collections and applaud the designer. But most forget about the hands that have translated these designs from paper to fabric. Ruchika Kher interacted with three Mumbai karigars who work closely with India's top designers, sacrifice family life in far-off towns, and ironically, choose to stay away from fashion shows

They are the silent workforce — those who work their magic, away from the glitz, glamour and the flashbulbs of the heady fashion world. We decided to go behind the scenes to meet these karigars (craftsmen) to put a face to the intricate designs and weaves that they create with threads, embellishments and colours, as they measure every detail to ensure that the garment retains the exquisiteness of the original idea.

Embroidery on a lehenga being done by the karigars at Manish Malhotra’s workshop. Pics/ Atul Kamble

Shoeb (in blue) working at Rocky S’ workshop

Shoeb, 24
Works for: Rocky S
Location: Khira Nagar, Santacruz (W).
He might be shy of attending fashion shows but Shoeb, who has been working with designer Rocky S for three years, is content to work under the designer, since it helps him learn about the new trends in design. “Prior to being an in-house embroiderer for Rocky, I worked with him, but through my own set-up. He would give me work, and I would finish it for him. Then, he began to like my work, and asked me to join him, which I was happy to do,” recalls Shoeb, who does all kinds of embroidery for the designer ranging from zardozi work to chikankari. “I enjoy working here because I get to learn new aspects of design; I get to know what’s in vogue and what’s fashionable,” he shares, but Shoeb is not interested in extending it any further. As far as attending a fashion show is considered, it’s a big no. He shyly confirms, “I have never gone for a fashion show. Rocky has asked me many times if I would wish to, but I don’t wish to. That place is very different from where we come from, so I know I would be uncomfortable. I am happy making the clothes.” Shoeb, originally from Lucknow, has been living in Mumbai for 11 years now. He learnt different types of embroidery from his family members and his education began as
a child.

Prasad Gutam giving final touches to a velvet lehenga with dabka work

Prasad Gutam, 34
Works for: Manish Malhotra
Location: Motilal Nagar, Goregaon (W).
A chance meeting turned into a more-than-a-decade-long association between embroiderer Prasad Gutam and designer Manish Malhotra. Gutam, who met Malhotra during a shoot, has been working with him for 13 years and now not only undertakes embroidery work but also manages 300 karigars who work for the designer. “I met Manish sir at a film shoot. My chacha (uncle) supplied clothes for shootings, and I would accompany him. One day, I met Manish and have never looked back. I started off with embroidery work and stitching for him, and now I also look after his film assignments and other supervising work,” says Gutam, who originally hails from Hyderabad and learnt embroidery and stitching from his father and uncle who worked as tailors.
Although Malhotra briefs Gutam regarding the embroidery work, getting it done from 300 karigars is no mean task. “It is not easy — handling so many karigars. Some are new while others are experienced and understand the brief. But the new ones take time. It’s tough but we manage,” he reveals.

Shankar Dev Choudhury (first from left) completing work on a collection as Archana Kochhar looks on. Pic/ Abhinav Kocharekar

Shankar Dev Choudhury, 28
Works for: Archana Kochhar
Location: JVPD, Juhu.
Shankar Dev Choudhury came to Mumbai in 1991 from Kolkata to search for work, leaving his entire family behind, and ended up becoming an embroiderer — an occupation that he has begun to warm up to. “I have been working with Archana ma’am for five years. Whatever I know, I’ve learnt in Mumbai,” confides Choudhury, who is pressed for time these days, owing to the upcoming fashion week in the city. “Nowadays, it’s hectic with the fashion show coming up. We work for 12 hours, sometimes even more, during this period,” revealed the embroiderer, who has never been for a show but does see the final creation before it goes on stage.

The nine-yard shift >>

The way the karigars painstakingly work on each outfit sis totally an eye-opener. When we visited designer Manish Malhotra’s workshop, we saw a group of karigars working on a beautiful green-coloured saree. It was interesting to see that different levels of the saree were being handled by different karigars. While one was arranging silver gota flowers on the saree, another was sticking them with glue. On the other side, one was carrying out threadwork on the stuck gota flowers and yet another one was adding the embellishments.

They dye for Wendell
Designer Wendell Rodricks, who often uses Malkha fabrics for his collections, procures it from the Malkha Marketing Trust, based in Hyderabad. The trust makes Malkha, which is woven by skilled weaver families on handlooms in Indian villages from cotton grown by farmer families. The malkha process puts the intermediate stage of cotton spinning back in the village, making the entire textile chain, from cotton to cloth, village-based. Uzramma, who is also the founder of the Dastkar Andhra, helps Rodricks procure and dye this fabric, which has a special texture and is great for draping. “Wendell discovered us around three years ago and since then we have been supplying this material to him, which he uses for his eco-friendly collections,” says Uzramma. 

Go to top