Fashion Talk
Ritu Kumar

Ritu Kumar

Fashion Designer
Label Ritu Kumar

‘Classics will return’ "There are a lot of people wearing western clothes in India. At the same time, there is strong demand for Indian fashion."

Fibre2fashion : You are one of the first Indian designers. What is your opinion about the Indian fashion industry especially compared to western countries?

Ritu Kumar:

It is quite a miracle that India’s indigenous fashion all around the world is different. The reason is that it has been taken over by the multinational conglomerate, where most fashion comes from France, Italy or America. We do not have indigenous fashion any more in the world. It is quite phenomenal that India still has a unique fashion identity.

Fibre2fashion : Do you agree that Indian fashion is all about heavy sarees and anarkalis, which are not worn every day?

Ritu Kumar:

This is not true. Daily wear is influenced by indigenous and ethnic clothing. Not everybody wears heavy sarees and anarkalis frequently. We have a number of combinations of salwar-kameez or a churidaar-kurta or just sarees. If you look around, not many people wear sarees around the year. So, if we are talking about the bridal market, it is about heavy sarees and anarkalis. The advent of the kurti has brought a drastic fashion change. This is really popular with the younger generation. It is trendy and in fashion.

Fibre2fashion : Do you think there is too much of western influence on Indian fashion?

Ritu Kumar:

Although it is not as much as I expected it to be, there is a lot of influence of other cultures because of the internet and other sources which help us to connect with the rest of world. There are a lot of people wearing western clothes in India as well. At the same time, there is a strong demand in our country for Indian fashion. India is not just Delhi or Mumbai. Across the country, what you really see is the evidence of Indian fashion. There is great diversity in fashion within India.

Fibre2fashion : How can Indian clothing be a part of the working environment or formal work wear?

Ritu Kumar:

We have to look at the working environment and what people are doing, to see what people are wearing. Cotton kurtis are popular with working women in India as they are comfortable and are suitable for the hot temperatures in our country. Western formal dresses are accepted but our climatic conditions make it difficult to wear them.

Fibre2fashion : You have dressed a number of celebrities. Is a celebrity clientele essential for a designer’s career?

Ritu Kumar:

It is definitely interesting for people to look at celebrities and what they wear. I like to dress my celebrity clients in clothes like bandhanis, block printing, hand work and embroidery. It becomes easier for non-celebrity clients to identify themselves with a well-known personality. When a celebrity wears my creation, it does get much more attention. It is not true that one has to have a celebrity clientele to be a good fashion designer. When we started, there was no media, so there were no red carpet events. Yet, we all lasted and we are glad to work for our clients.

Fibre2fashion : You were awarded the Padma Shri for exceptional and distinguished service in fashion. Who are your favourite designers?

Ritu Kumar:

That is really hard to say as there are many talented people. I do not have one favourite but many. Rakesh Thakore and David Abraham are on my list because I appreciate their work. 

Fibre2fashion : Is it time for Indian as well as global textile and apparel industry to be sensitive towards environmental hazards? Are you satisfied with steps taken in this regard?

Ritu Kumar:

It is time for the Indian and global textile and apparel industry to be sensitive towards environmental hazards. In India, we dress according to our budget and not according to what is good for us and our environment. In the rest of the world, you have to get testing certifications but in India we choose affordable clothing and very often, those are not environment-friendly. Much more needs to be done by the government in these areas.

Fibre2fashion : Does fashion repeat itself?

Ritu Kumar:

Fashion is cyclic in nature because there are just a limited number of products that we can produce from a piece of cloth. It is thus important to look at that dimension. Sometimes, colours come back into fashion. The difference is in its form. Patterns like parallels and Patiala salwars have come back in the past few years. So do floral prints and hand block prints. Classics will return. Only that which is trendy but does not work well in the market. People forget about it. It does not need to come back.

Fibre2fashion : What are the major transitions in the Indian fashion industry?

Ritu Kumar:

About 45 years ago, the fashion industry had no retail presence. There was no media and no source of expression for marketing. Media has been of great help by publishing images of how to produce clothes and with event images. So, if there is a designer who has something nice to offer, he or she knows where to sell. When I started in the industry, I simply did not know where to place my collection.

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