Meet the designer who creates designs with chikankari that can be worn for weddings and parties too
We are all familiar with Chikankari work and the famous Lucknow kurtas. Normally these intricate designs are created on muslin cloth in pastel shades that are ideally worn in summers. What if you can find similar designs that can worn not just for daily wear but also for weddings and parties? Some are designed in such a way that they can even be a part of a bridal trousseau. If you are thinking on the same lines then Ahilaya in Cinnamon Complex, must be your destination.
This store is run by designer Farah Ansari on Gangadhara Road. The collections at Ahilaya are hand-crafted by skilled women artisans from Lucknow. “We have around 50 women working with us as part of our women empowerment programme,” Farah says. “As part of this, women, who don’t leave their homes but stay indoors, work for us. Most of them are third-generation artisans.”
But getting them to stay is a challenge she adds, “We tell them they don’t need to leave work when they get married or have children. But can take a break and start whenever they want from their homes.”
Talking about her fashion foray, Farah says, “We are second-generation designers. My father Anwar Ansari started the store bringing kurtis to the West during the hippie era. We build upon that. We have five stores in Mumbai and one in Bengaluru which is co-owned with my sisters.”
“It was easy for us to take to design as we grew up in the stores and also wore what was created by artisans. It was natural for us to get into it. I feel good for our product is steeped in history and we specialise in chikankari,” she adds.
Ahilaya offers you high-end kurtis – short and long, anarkalis, shawls, and kaftans – all with chikankari embroidery. “Our products are for the woman with a discerning taste in fashion. One who recognises quality and has a passion for hand embroidery. We make designs akin to fashion jewellery and use only natural fabric such as cotton, silk, chiffon, pashmina and so on. If you look closely you will see that every embroidery is unique in its own way,” says Farah as she takes us through the store.
There are also some designs in chiffons and silk with gold thread embroidery, which can be carried off even by a bride. Farah says some of her designs are worn by Hollywood and Bollywood celebrities. “These designs can be carried off with élan by anyone to work too. It will look elegant and add a lot of style to their personality,” explains the designer, who lives in New York.
“We also have three generation of customers — women who shopped with us when they were kids, as adults and now their children and grandchildren come to us. It feels good.”