Chikankari-The Craze and Crave for the Season

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Meethi Zabaan, lakhnavi kaam and of late Tunde Kebab, Lucknow stands synonymous with these. Coming from this land of relaxed tongue and relaxed pace of life, I don’t know how much I justify the USP of this city of Nawabs. But chikankari has always been a way of life. Having grown up there, can very proudly say and see chikankari also growing by leaps and bounds. Now its splashed everywhere. Right from top models sashaying in chikan embroidered couture to the neighbourhood marts displaying intricately chikan bridal wear, chikan has finally arrived.

What was the most casual attire for a middle class woman, has suddenly become a celebrity’s designer statement. Chikan is a thread embroiderary which has traditionally been done on pastel cottons with white thread. It stood synonymous with summers. Affordable and wearable, chikan kurta pyjamas, chikan cotton sarees or even chikankari frocks and handkerchiefs, were a must have for a Lucknow wala. I was no exception till I moved out of my comfort zone (and comfort clothing).

In the meanwhile, chikankari also evolved to be laid bare on more refined fabrics like sultry chiffons and georgettes, sophisticated silks and of course, the conventional cottons. What was prominently a summer affair was becoming gradually popular for all seasons. However, the traditional art form of Lucknow was miles away from national recognition until Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, the famous designer duo, catapulted this local embroidery form into celebrity glory; they designed the famous Mehendi Lehenga for Sonam Kapoor in pure chikankari work, hogging lot of limelight and headlines. Buzz has it that this masterpiece which had silver and gold zari work, with pearls and Swarovski crystals accentuating the chikanikari work, took 18 months and a team of artisans to reach its final look and voila what a royal and magnificent look it gave to the stunning bride!

The celebrated designer duo, added yet another feather to their cap when Deepika, the dream bride wore a heavily chikan laden ensemble for her wedding reception. Deepika, with her subtle beauty and unparalleled charm made chikankari reach its crescendo which was long overdue!

Chowk in Lucknow has these karigars who have mastered this art since generations. However, the glorification and recognition of this very elegant Lucknawi art form was long overdue and Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla can be given due credit for making chikan now every woman’s dream attire. Simultaneously, chikan was also being documented. Paola Manfredi, an Italian wrote Chikankari – A Lucknawi Traditioni, a book that shows her close and long association with the craft. She walked the bylanes of congested old Lucknow and spoke to a number of Karigars, blockmakers and even exporters to present a comprehensive picture of this subtle embroidery, its origin and its  history. The book is a treasure trove for those who would love to seek chikan and its nuances in depth. Now chikan must get some international recognition since it has the finesse, elegance and intricacy to woo the global connoisseurs.

Chikankari is flooding the market right now and can be termed the ‘craze or the crave for the season’. It’s on the bucket list of every bride to be for her trousseau or those hunting wedding wear. I am so much in love with this embroidery yet again. And swollen with so much pride, after all, lucknawi kaam is topping the charts and I remain a Lucknow wala in my heart!

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