“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” 
― Rumi

This verse of 13thCentury Persian poet, Rumi, has defined the DNA of last two decades globally. Follow your passion, travel the world and become a storyteller, just do it and other such quotes has created a sense of urgency among people to find their inner calling; although in the process what they might have discovered is FOMO – fear of missing out.  

Capturing the deeply embedded concept of FOMO, retail market is booming. According to a 2017 KPMG report, wedding industry in India is estimated to be worth approximately US $53.77 billion. Beauty, fashion, photography, jewellery, travel, hospitality and gifting , all sectors are vying for a bigger pie in the market. Experience and memories are the key decision makers. Pegging on wedding experience, Renaissance Ahmedabad hotel recently hosted ‘Shaadi By Marriott’ – a two-day wedding festival showcasing royal wedding couture by celebrated fashion designer duo, Meera and Muzaffar Ali on the opening day. 

Meera and Muzaffar Ali

“Wedding business is one of the biggest employer in India, shares Meera Ali, architect turned fashion designer spearheading ‘House of Kotwara’ along with renowned filmmaker and painter, Muzaffar Ali – The Raja of Kotwara, as she emphasises on the need for incorporating crafts in wedding collection. House of Kotwara, an international couture brand, was founded with an idea of reviving traditional crafts of Awadh in 1990. With some of the finest craftspeople working for generations, Zardozi and Chikankari has been the forte of Kotwara since last three decades. 

As a part of Shaadi By Marriott – the two-day wedding extravaganza curated by Krunal Parekh, the couturiers presented an exclusive wedding collection crafted for different occasions including mehendi, sangeet, cocktail night and the big wedding day on the ramp. 

Commenting on which colours will be trending for wedding wear in 2019, Meera says “We are presenting the collection in three different parts. The Mehendi and Sangeet collection is created in soft pastels of ivory, peach, sea green and powder blue reminding one of afternoons in floral gardens. The cocktail collection is replete with the sensuous colours of night – grey, blue, purple, silver and black whereas the wedding day collection stays true to the traditional auspicious colours of red family. Photography has become very important in documenting the wedding memories in today’s time. With a broad colour spectrum, we have ensured that a bride looks back at her timeless pictures with fond memories” 

The collection encompasses Kotwara’s signature embroideries across the gentle summer voiles and chiffons, juxtaposed with the richness of soft brocades. Designed painstakingly over a period of one year plus, the designer duo along with their daughter, Sama Ali, are involved in the process from start to finish. Be it separately dyeing each motif in different shades of natural dyes or carefully arranging them on canvas to create a timeless harmony of design, be it opting for intricately detailed craft work on gossamer thin fabric or be it designing outfits in such a colour scheme that they can be used as separates and worn multiple times, the Kotwara family ensures that they romance with the craft of designing.

While the designer duo brings in the ethos of creating art for the sake of beauty, young daughter brings in the advantage of technology. 

How does one retain craftsmen in the business while their younger generation wants to move out ? 

“Retaining craftsmen is a challenge. Like any other youth, craftsmen’s children are also aspirational. They want a better life in urban setup. It has become important to educate them in design, marketing and social media besides honing their craft skills. They have to see the value in staying back and taking forward the baton of their craft” informs Muzaffar Ali on the current craft sector scenario in India. 

“My film Gaman was based on rural displacement in India. Smita Patil once told me, if I feel so much for the people of Kotwara, I must do something about it. The feeling got stronger during the shoot of Zulie with Dimple Kapadia and Vinod Kumar in Kashmir ; the shoot stopped due to insurgency. This was the time when we decided to start Dwar Pe Rozi – an initiative aimed at emancipation of women and rural India through humanistic education and craft. Today 95% of our crafts people are women. The society runs a school based on these values producing confident rural youth poised to take charge of their lives” he adds highlighting the need for craft schools in India and the opportunity for women employment in this sector. 

With the announcement of World Handmade Textiles Biennale by the Ministry of Textiles, designers have been optimistic about the impetus that it may bring to the craft and design sector. However, for the crafts to thrive, it needs to have global appeal. 

Chikankari , the choice of craft promoted by the House of Kotwara, is one such craft that has international appeal. Suiting the clean and minimal aesthetics of western and Japanese design sensibilities, chikankari work has entered nimbly in form of jackets, shirts, kurta, stoles and dresses. Demand and supply, like any other business, will rule even in crafts sector. Patrons need to endorse the crafts of India; what better time than weddings when Indians spend a sizeable fortune. 

“In a process to document the GI tagged crafts and bring in awareness about the cultural context, we have created 18 short films on crafts of India. Cultural continuity of a region is very important. In order to create a good design, one must understand the cultural nuances of the region, craft of that area and the history behind it to make it relevant in the current times” shares Muzaffar as he ruminates over the overlapping history of menswear in Awadh region. Royal menswear in the Awadh region was comprised of angarkha, sherwani and achkan – a resultant effect of influence of Rajputs, Moghuls and Nawabs. 

Will the crafts of India gain more traction than Bollywood inspired fashion in wedding wear? Will the crafts people still stay in the profession ? Will the challenges of education, vocational training, demand and supply be addressed? It remains to be seen. 

To-be-brides however can make informed choice of adding exquisite craft pieces to their wedding trousseau. At the two day festival at Renaissance Ahmedabad hotel, on display was the exquisite bridal jewellery by Zinzuwadia Legacy and Purvi Shah; choicest collection of wedding and bridal wear by distinguished designers such as Umang Hutheesing, Purvi Doshi, Seema Mehta and Sailesh Singhania besides an exclusive range of Gujarat’s heritage textile – Patola – by Weaving Heritage. Palace Karkhana had displayed a collection of chiffon sarees in pastels; created by different royal families of India. 

There is an alternate universe growing slowly that encourages appreciation of art and craft for the sheer beauty of it. Be a part of this growing tribe.