Manish Malhotra SS 2013 Mijwan Sonnets in Fabric 

One of the most stunning fashion shows of Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week SS 2013 was undoubtedly Manish Malhotra's "Mijwan Sonnets in Fabric" showcasing Chikankari embroidery by village women from Mijwan, a small village near Azamgarh, in rural Uttar Pradesh, India. Nothing can be more momentous or heartwarming than when Fashion and Charity comes together ... especially in a fashion show in a prestigious Fashion Week in front of a urban global audience .. who are privileged to witness the miracles embroidered from the dreams of rural India ... which is mostly unsung and unappreciated ...... We were stunned, riveted and absolutely ashamed of our ignorance ... of the wonderful artistry of Chikan, which belongs to the same pedestal as more globally prominent textile art forms like French Laid Embroidery(White Work), 18th century lace-like embroidery known as Dresden or Ayreshire embroidery from 19th century Scotland.

Sidenote : S is from Lucknow with family roots spreading to Azamgarh ... this post took us long to write because of her heritage and emotional connect to anything Lucknawi and Chikan ... we researched this post like never before ... therefore bear with us for the length of it :D ... you can see the pride and wonder through the way S captured Manish Malhotra's tribute to Chikankari in the magical pictures wayyyy below ( if you are the impatient sort who doesn't like to read much ... you can scroll down to the clothes straight away ... hahaha ... but we really hope you will read it through for the sake of Indian pride in our heritage) !!

Chikan embroidery by the village girls from Mijwan 


It is a traditional embroidery style from Lucknow, India. Literally translated, the word means embroidery. Believed to have been introduced by Noor Jahan, Mughal Emperor Jahangir's wife, Chikankari was traditionally done only on pure, un-dyed white shazaada cotton or Dhaka  ki mulmul, both sourced from Dhaka, Bangladesh (where the waters of the river Brahmaputra and Ganga meet and have bleaching properties). The kutcha dhaagha (the thread) used for the embroidery, was also white and procured from Calcutta or Dhaka. Chinkankari began as a ‘white on white’ embroidery. Nowadays Chikankari is done on the the finest of white cotton fabric called muslin or mulmul and voile(for the affordable low cost range). Chikankari has six basic stitches and over thirty-five other traditional stitches used in various combinations based on what the pattern to be embroidered requires. The six basic stitches are: Tepchi, (back Running stitch), Bakhiya (double back stitch), Hool (Eyelet), Zanzeera (chain stitch), Rahet (stem stitch) and Banarsi. Other stitches are phanda, chana patti, ghaas patti, ulti jaali, bijli, jaali, kharau, keel, kangan, bulbul and hath kadi. Depending on the type of garment and the pattern to be embroidered the entire process happens in a series of stages over a period of months or even years. Also, the embroidery itself is divided among the artisans, with pairs or groups of three or more specializing in one particular stitch. When one group completes their particular stitch for a garment, it is passed on to the next group to add their specialty stitch. One group may also have mastery of two or more stitches.

Manish Malhotra  

Manish Malhotra
Revolutionizing costume design and having introduced the concept of styling in Indian Bollywood films has made Manish Malhotra one of the most recognized names in the fashion industry globally. Manish Malhotra’s areas of creativity span the broad spheres of Bollywood, design, styling, diffusion and everlasting bridal couture. He creates glamorous ensembles with Indian traditional colors, textures, embroideries, and craftsmanship. In the past one year, Manish Malhotra, the label has taken up the responsible initiative to promote regional handicrafts and workmanship from rural India. One such initiative is the association with Shabana Azmi’s “Mijwan Welfare Society”. The label has adopted 45 girl workers from the village of Mijwan, near Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh for their intricate and exclusive hand embroidered chikankari.

 Mijwan Sonnets in Fabric

Mijwan Welfare Society (

Noted Urdu poet and lyricist Kaifi Azmi believed that in a country like India where 80% of the population lives in the villages, we will need to empower villages  if India is to make any real progress. Towards this objective, he formed an NGO in Mijwan, the village he was born in, called MIJWAN WELFARE SOCIETY (MWS) (1993) and worked tirelessly for the empowerment of the people of the village especially women. Kaifi Azmi's belief in gender equality and social justice was most powerfully reflected in his famous penned lines 'Uth meri jaan mere saath hi chalna hai tujhe'  (Rise up my sweetheart, you have to walk side by side with me) (Aurat, 1945). He began his tireless struggle towards economic independence for the women of Mijwan and neighbouring villages in Uttar Pradesh. In 1994, Kaifi Azmi Embroidery and Sewing centre was set up on land donated by him. After his death, his efforts are carried on by his actress daughter Shabana Azmi and Namrata Goyal (heiress to the aviation behemoth Jet Airways, owned by Naresh Goyal).

The Music

We have been giving you the music from the runway shows uptil now. The show started with Shabana Azmi reciting her father, the poet Kaifi Azmi's poetry. It was followed by Lament (noun: a passionate expression of grief), and the show ended with When I Still Needed You. 

1. Lament - Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan / Michael Brook
The third song from the Album - Night Song, a collaboration by the Pakistani Qawwal singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Canadian ambient guitarist producer composer Michael Brook.(Nominated for a Grammy Award for Best World Music Album in 1997) ... it produces an aural experience perhaps only paralleled by the eyewitnessing of a faith healer at work, a miracle birth, or a natural disaster in this present-day world. "Lament" is plodding, desolate and dark, with Nusrat droning "without you there is gloominess--come back home sweetheart" as mellow background guitar sounds soar and slowly drift to the depths of one's soul.

2. When I Still Needed You - Afro Celt Sound System
"When I Still Needed You" is the opening track of Afro Celt Sound Systems album Anatomic .. It is a heart-wrenching epic that marries accordian, bouzouki, bodhran and other percussion, and superb programming with the impassioned vocals of Dorothee Munyaneza, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide ( if you don't know what we are talking about, ask our best friend Google :)

The Clothes

Earthy, subdued tones of ivory, burnt orange, creme, dull shades of red, pink and mehndi green, makes the collection extra ordinary. The needlework by the Mijwan girls was exquisite and phenomenal.  Bollywood actress, Parineeti Chopra as the showstopper in her black and red ensemble, looked absolutely stunning.

Parineeti Chopra showstopper !! 

The final bow Parineeti Chopra, Shabana Azmi with Manish Malhotra 

Chikan craft has a global presence, albeit a very slender one ... Ancient Europe has been greatly enamoured of Indian fabrics from Greek and Roman times ... So fine and delicate were the Indian fabrics that the Romans romantically called them ‘textilli venti’ or woven winds ... It requires a great deal of economic interest and economic thrust to metamorphose it from a small but significant cottage industry .... into a commercially viable international enterprise ...  wherein the beauty of the craft is not sacrificed on the altar of mechanical necessity, ..... but the Chikan workforce, .... made up largely of women ... are adequately compensated for their efforts .... and the aesthetic spirit of the beautiful whispering white woven winds, .... are restored to some semblance of their former glory. For this we salute the efforts of designer Manish Malhotra !!

This has been a very emotional post for us ... though the show was held on Day 2 of Fashion Week ... we were very embarassed to put up a post where the highlight was Chikan ... everyone Indian has at some point of time worn Chikan embroidery ... it is familiar to us, but we have never appreciated our heritage enough to delve into its beautiful history ... in case you want to brush up on your knowledge, we recommend Sheila Paine's book Chikan Embroidery : The Floral Whitework of India. .... until next time,



  1. hey.. awesome collection ,, love it,, thanks for putting it here,, with the details, really good work.

  2. Nice post and awesome collection. love it. thanks for sharing it.


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