the dream of chintz

I have always been fascinated by the texture of chintz. Its vintage look appeals to me as well. Since I have been interested in European fashions of the past, I became aware of the role chintz played in creating modern tastes in fashion. As a practicing designer from Hyderabad, I am always conscious of my traditional roots in the techniques of zardozi and thick embroidery work too. An inspiration strikes when you realize how two traditions can be given space in a single vision. So I imagined a royal lady from the Victorian era, reclining in a luxury room wearing Indian bridal design! It seemed almost a paradox but I knew the moment I thought of it that my interest in chintz and this image was going to inspire my work for the next few months. Thinking about images in general, I recalled my interest in the look of the chintz vintage designs that give you such an interesting surface to work on. I found out how ‘chintz’ is derived from the old, Sanskrit word ‘chitra’, meaning bright and spotted. Image, fabric and dream came together magically and our vision for the new collection was born.

And Chitra is really all about images, impressions, lightness, tinged with a royal appetite for that vintage look of the past. I wanted to provide modern brides with the confidence to go for something quirky and playful. So a richly worked and embroidered lehenga could provide the comfort of a much lighter outfit too. The look of chintz and the Victorian era seemed to speak very well to each other. We made flares, layers, ruffles and styled those with sourced jewellery inspired by that era. 

from inspiration to process

The collection was also inspired by the hothouse environment of a pandemic-induced lockdown. The fabric of chintz can stage its own animated drama too. Even though several techniques are available for working with such fabrics, the primary joy came in discovering which combination worked towards creating new kinds of cuts, which were the laboriously put together- as you can see in some of these images from the hand manufacturing processes. (A few images from the mitering stages and before that could be used here)

Chintz gave us the initial surfaces to work on. We sketched our designs through this process and compared how they sat on the fabric. Some of the drawings and sketches we worked on took on the natural themes of flowers, leaves and stalks; but also other ornamental patterns that spoke to us about the past. These designs were then grafted on to the whole garment- where we could look what effect it had as an initial image. (images of the illustrations can be added here) Then we worked on the surfaces with Indian embroidery techniques and used different embellishments like zardozi with applique and pearls with resham. We also used print on print surfaces and 3D flower applique on thread embroidery. I feel this is where the secret engine of the collection lies- in our innovative use of Indian embroidery work on chintz surfaces that traditionally suggest a very vintage, European aesthetic. 

We went through several sample looks, colours and combinations until we could whittle down the exact look of each garment. After arriving at the design patterns we set the silhouettes for the dresses and cut the fabric to establish the final forms. At this stage the lehengas were also ready for sewing in these patterns. Once the panels were attached and mitered, it only remained to be seen how the whole cloth hung together. The jewellery we sourced were carefully matched with the pieces. 

Since we were guided by an eccentric image, a lot of our combinations may seem new and unheard of. A bridal lehenga in a mint colour with white thread embroidery and a printed dupatta. Have you seen one of those before? The idea was to make use of the fun, colourful and dramatic nature of chintz. Out of this forest of activity, we were proud to see the garments emerge like fully-formed butterflies. 

shooting the look

We finished with a final set of 40 designs. The number of samples and outfits we go through before arriving at the final set will surprise many, but at the end it is always a pleasure to get there. In the end, each piece is treated like a handmade art work. And when we got there we wanted to explore our dreamy inspiration further by finding a suitable location for the shoot. We looked for something that resembled a Victorian tea parlour, full of light and surrounded by nature outside. But with its slatted windows and patterned walls we also found the glimpse of Indian inspirations subtly influencing the scene. By using chintz in this manner I hope to convey the inherent drama of the fabric and give you a sense of the multiple worlds contained in it.
Through the pictures and the information collected here the reader can see for themselves what kind of work really goes into a collection such as this, right from the conception to the final design and fitting, after which we do a photo shoot to describe the ideal look of the collection and its imaginary context.