In the late 1960’s India was going through profound changes; plastics had replaced mud, brass and silver; factory produced papers and woods took the place of sophisticated handicrafts and nylons displaced an ancient heritage of cotton and silk. It was not only a battle between tradition and modernity; it was also a confrontation of lifestyles and values.
During this time, a small group who had benefited from unique opportunities of study and travel began to see the depth of the craft and design heritage of their own country. They discovered that India was a reservoir of delicate skills.
In an attempt to merge their international experiences together with the skills of their people, they became aware that contemporary designers must revitalize their own roots and identity. This was essential to take Indian creativity out into the world in such a way that benefited both craftsmen and the modern consumer. This scattered group, including Ritu Kumar was to become the country’s leading designers of the buildings, garments, fabric and accessories. Ritu began with hand block printers and two tables in a small village near Calcutta, and since then Ritu’s team of dedicated workers have progressed to produce some of the country’s most exquisite garments and accessories in cotton, silk and leather. These ranges embrace both traditional textile crafts and the lineage of Indian design. Over the centuries, traditional skills that had been lost have been revitalized and this has enabled the craftsmen to continue working in their own environment. Ritu has pioneered the term ‘fashion’ in the Indian context, and more importantly, has demonstrated that hand made products can be as profitable and even more glamorous than those made by machine. In 2002 Ritu Kumar, joined by her son Amrish, launched a sub brand –Label Ritu Kumar. LABEL uses the established forte of traditional Indian design and converts it into a fashion oriented international product. This is aimed at the young, global Indian woman with a contemporary lifestyle. LABEL retails from most Ritu Kumar stores as well as stand alone stores in India as well as internationally. In a bid to bring the specialized design collection into the main stream and appeal to a younger generation the Ritu Kumar brand has designed costumes for a few films, high profile stars such as Aishwarya Rai, Sushmita Sen, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Lara Dutta, Priyanka Chopra, Diya Mirza, Diana Hayden and Neha Dhupia. Since 1994 till the present date of 2016 Ritu Kumar has also been designing the wardrobes comprising swimwear, evening wear, traditional Indian wear, casual wear, formal evening gowns; of the three winning Miss India’s , for their participation in International Beauty Pageants (Miss Universe , Miss World and Miss Asia Pacific respectively ). An impressive number of winners have emerged from these contests putting India on the beauty map. Some of the winners have won awards for the Most Outstanding Evening Gown and the Best National Costume. Internationally style icons such as late Princess Diana and Jemima Khan have patronized Ritu Kumar’s outfits. Her book “Costumes and Textiles of Royal India” published by Christies in October 1999 chronicles the history of India’s royal patronage to textile arts down the centuries starting with the historical context of Mohenjo Daro to the present era. A definite and exhaustive academic as well as fashion history which has become a reference book in India. From humble beginnings forty years ago when Ritu became the first woman to introduce the ‘boutique’ culture in India under the brand name ‘Ritu’ she now has a retail empire spanning the world, with an objective to open its 50th store in India this 2016.
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