Sushma Desai needs little introduction to sartorialists in the city. In the last 16 years, this Bangalore-based designer has nourished glorious handloom weaves and given new life to intricate embroidery and embellishment techniques. One of the foremost revival specialists of the South, Desai’s latest collection was showcased in Chennai and promises to be both edifying and educational. “Summer Hues is a collection of tunics in chanderi, mulmul, maheshwari, cotton and linen,” begins Mridulika Menon-Madiraju, who presents Desai’s work at her boutique, Samasta, over the weekend.
The summer palette includes light peaches, lilacs, mints and warm Indian hues of mustard, maroon and leaf green. Known for her trademark chic, Desai’s natural fabrics exhib-it a timeless style. “This is what I love most about her clothes—the simplicity and elegance,” says Madiraju. For her latest venture, Desai has worked with craftsmen on both the fabric and the embellishment. “My pieces are hand embroidered, appliqued with aari, kantha and kasuti negi and ribbon work. Kasuti negi is in fact this little known technique, which is exe-cuted by women in Dharwad, Karnataka. They hang the fabric on a screen and use two different types of threads and count the knots of the work they have done.”
Desai is also excited about the special vegetable dyes used to imbue colour into her khadi fabrics and the hand-block printed chanderi. “I love my work so much,” she confesses, concluding, “But I also love it when customers appreciate the intricacies of our rich heritage in handlooms and embroidery.”