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Colonial rule affected Indian textile industry, Europeans used the same to shape world fashion: Ritu Kumar

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Colonial rule affected Indian textile industry, Europeans used the same to shape world fashion: Ritu Kumar
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Fashion designer Ritu Kumar said every Indian village has a textile and craft unique to it but colonial rule made things difficult in India. Known as the matriarch of Indian fashion, her five brands and 93 stores across the country have drawn recognition to forgotten textiles and crafts.

Speaking to The Indian Express, the Padma Shri awardee admits that Indian textile history is not documented. When she first took interest in textiles in the 1960s, she travelled to museums all over Europe to find Indian prints. France and England were the major nations exporting from India. The 77-year-old said the colonisers exported Indian textiles and influenced fashion across the world.

She recounts that colonial rule had heavily affected India's crafts work. "Europeans took Indian prints and replicated them all over Europe. They studied Indian textiles and wrote volumes on them. Meanwhile, the same crafts were heavily taxed in India," says the designer who has been studying the history of Indian textiles for five decades. Kumar started her brand with one unit but recalls not knowing where to sell the products.

Kumar recalled how textiles were used as a political tool and how her generation loved wearing Khadi, Jaipur kurtas, Kohlapuri chappals, and jholas to college. The more I travelled for work, the more I discovered what we had lost, says the designer.

53 years after the genesis of her brand, Ritu Kumar says India is sitting on a treasure trove of designs. "I was never in a situation when I did not have a design to discover". She added there are unrecorded and undiscovered textiles in every little village and town in India.

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