Traditionally, embroidery was used to embellish clothing for special occasions and signified various nuances of status, community and religion. Today, the beauty of embroidery compels us to adorn even everyday garments. At the heart of every White Champa garment are details that have been expertly created by our master craftsmen who follow these ancient traditions.
It is a joy to see how the master embroiderers - the Karigars - create patterns and designs with their hands by using gold and silver threads, fine silk yarns and create unparalleled beauty. The designs need not always be elaborate. Even minimal motifs establish a link to a craft and an artform that deserves to be honored daily lest they are forgotten.
India lies along the ancient traderoutes of Asia. As a consequence, many cultural and technical influences have shaped Indian embroidery. An important technique used by the White Champa embroiderers is the Ari or hook embroidery. The metal hooks used are made by the embroiderers themselves from a variety of sources, sometimes even from metal umbrella spokes.
We use many embroidery techniques in novel ways – so that an embellishment is used and cherished in a contemporary context.
The process starts with a drawing. The drawing is then translated into a tracing which is pricked with a tiny needle to create holes along the lines of the design. The to-be-embroidered fabric is stretched taut on a wooden frame as the design is transferred onto the fabric, by rubbing a liquid chalk mix over the holes in the tracing. With the marked outline in front of him, the embroiderer embarks on the journey to create the embroidery. It is here that the first samples are made. The designer discusses and fine tunes the details and colors with the embroiderer.
Furkan is one of two master embroiderers working full time at White Champa. It can take him many days to complete the detailed bead work on one of the most complicated jackets (insert link/photo). He sits cross legged on the floor working on a frame for hours on end and it can be hard on his shins if he doesn’t get up and stretch and take a break. Embroidery does not run in Furkan’s family. His father ran a tea stall but somehow he and three brothers ended up becoming embroiderers. The brothers agree that Furkan is the most accomplished of them all. With twenty years’ experience he is the one who helps interpret a sketch, works out the stitches and produces the initial samples.
Mukhtiar comes from a village near Lucknow. When he finished school he set off to seek his fortune in Bombay against his father’s advice. He learned his outstanding embroidery skills by watching others embroider in his community and quickly joined a big unit that worked on embellishing traditional Indian womens’ clothes. During his 22 years in the profession, Mukhtiar has taught four other young men how to do the most intricate and elaborate stitches that sometimes look so perfect it is hard to believe they are not machine made. One particular White Champa design is used to test the newcomers – a Samurai crest in a circle. The skill needed for this design quickly weeds out those who cannot reach the required standards of perfection. There have been many aspirants who have left in frustration when they realized they could not complete the task.