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  • Phyllida Jay

'Secret’ Indian Ateliers Keep Luxury Brands Buoyant


MUMBAI, India — It was one of the most memorable catwalk moments of 2019. As she sashayed down the Milan runway in Versace’s jungle print dress, Jennifer Lopez looked even more toned and confident than she did wearing the original dress two decades earlier. Hailed as a stroke of marketing genius that got millions of people talking, the last thing on anyone’s mind was: “who actually made it?”

If it weren’t for a chance encounter, no one would probably know that it was a group of artisans from Mumbai, India who had sewn the intricate embellishments on the reissued dress that helped Lopez look like an ageless Amazonian.

It is understandable that Versace didn’t publicise what would have been a mere footnote in the garment’s long Italian production log. Few expect brands to acknowledge everyone involved in the making of a garment. However, what a growing number of Indians find irritating is that the important role of Indian craft is — broadly and systematically — still brushed under the carpet by leaders of Europe's luxury industry.

At a time when there are calls for the makers of high fashion to finally be given due credit and respect, some now believe that consumers should be told that some of the handwork seen on the world’s catwalks and red carpets passes through the deft hands of India’s most skilled embroiderers and artisans.

"While cost is certainly one consideration, another is that having garments embellished in India can yield superior results."

“It's really a no-brainer that luxury embroidery would come out of India,” says Nonita Kalra, editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar India. “In India, our craftspeople make the designer. Look at the sari, it's just nothing but nine yards of fabric. It would be nothing without the artisan making it.”

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