Ritu Kumar – The Fashion Designer Made for India
By – Anant Kumar
If you have even a little bit of interest in Indian fashion, you must have heard the name of Ritu Kumar. She was the inspirational Indian fashion designer and founder of the brand name Ritu who has served the fashion industry for 50 years. Today, in this new post, we will be discussing her work. So, without wasting time, let’s deep dive into it.
Ritu Kumar was the first Indian fashion designer who brought the boutique culture to India. She started off, before the Indian fashion industry was even born. She began her career in 1969, starting with just four hand blog printers and two tables in small village areas near Kolkata (Used to be Calcutta). Today, her brand name Ritu has grown to retail through 93 stores all over the world. Ritu Kumar is known as the most respected designer-wear brand in India and has been worn by many Bollywood & International celebrities like Priyanka Chopra, Aishwarya Rai, Lara Dutta, Día Mirza, Misha Batorn, Anna Ivanovic, and more.
Additionally, the brand has also designed the wardrobes for the Miss India Contests for their participation in international beauty pageants like Miss Universe, Miss World, and Miss Asia Pacific.
Her children, Ashvin Kumar (writer/director nominated for an academy award), Amrish Kumar, was the founder of “Label Ritu Kumar”, which was founded in 2002.
Her Early Life and Education.
She was born on the 11th of Nov 1944 in Amritsar. Ritu grew up in a middle-class family. But her parents had very different thoughts, unlike most of the parents of the 60s era. Her parents and grandparents were highly educated and believed that educating their daughter was of utmost importance. Her career choice was also left upon her wishes.
In 1964, she finished her Bachelor’s degree from Lady Irwin College and moved to the USA, where she pursued her higher education in theatre and History of Art from Briarcliff College, New York. After completing higher education, she came back to India and studied museology at the Ashutosh Museum of Indian ART in Kolkata. She also got married to Shashi Kumar.
While she was in the initial phase of her career, Ritu found different types of dying embroideries and prints. In the 60s, there were very few people who had the opportunity to study and travel internationally and see the depth of the craft and design heritage of their own country. Fortunately, she was one of those few.
Ritu Kumar wanted to combine her abroad experience together with the skills, roots, and identity of her country. She basically wanted to take Indian creativity out in the world.
It was the 60s, when Ritu had such an idea, during those times, India was in the beginning stages of modernization, such as nylons were being replaced by Cotton & silk, Handicrafts were being replaced by wood-made papers, and brass was replacing silver. Ritu saw something missing in society, which changed her life once and for all for good.
Ritu’s career met with the textiles industry by sheer accident. While Ritu was at it, she found a small village called Serampore – it was a former Dutch colony on the outskirts of Kolkata. What she noticed was that a lot of talent lay in a small village, which highly lacked opportunities. Only if they had retail space around, or a driving force that could spread the word about the delicacy of the place, it would have benefited not just villagers, but also investors.
Having said that; in 1969, with just four hand block printers and two tables, she entered the textile industry. Soon she opened her first small retail space. Soon, she produced enough designs with those poor villagers and held an exhibition at the Park Hotel in Calcutta. This event was a huge success, which opened multiple opportunities in that area.
After that, she opened her first small retail space, and with this, she became the first woman of the “Boutique” culture introducer in India. Started with bridal wear and evening clothes in the 1960s and 70s, Ritu eventually entered the international market in the subsequent two decades. The company has operated in Paris, London, and New York. However, after three years, the London Branch got shut down. In 1999, the company’s annual income was the highest of any Indian fashion outlet.
A successful fashion designer, she wrote a book called “Costumes and Textile of Royal India.” The book was all about the history of India’s royal textiles arts, which went back to the days of Mohenjo Daro.
Award and Recognition.
- She received the 4th highest civilian award called the “Padma Shri Award” for her exceptional and distinguished services in the fashion industry.
- She was awarded the “Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Award” for her achievement and contribution.
- In 2013, she got the “Delhi Women of the Decade Achievement Award” for excellence in fashion retail.
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